AUDIOLOGIST Peter Bartlett is working hard to get more people in Ballarat and Malawi to listen to his message: we need to be more proactive when it comes to our hearing.
Mr Bartlett and his wife Rebecca, also an audiologist at AudioClinic, spent six years living in Malawi as missionaries at African Bible College Community Clinic before returning to Ballarat in 2016 and continuing to lead training for change in the African nation.
While starkly different in hearing issues, Mr Bartlett said fundamentally more attention was needed for the "invisible disability" and, as hearing awareness week was a good chance for a reminder.
"While it might seem obvious not a lot of people take great care of their hearing," Mr Bartlett said. "In Australia there is high incidence and low awareness with about 60 per cent of people aged over 60 experiencing hearing loss.
"In Malawi, the effects are more on children due to medicines they might take, infection, hygiene and health...In contrast, Australia has fabulous hearing health professionals but a lot of the older population don't admit hearing loss when in actual fact it can be more isolating."
Mr Bartlett said the south-east African nation had fewer audiologists than those in Ballarat, despite having a population of more than 19 million people.
The Barletts worked as part of the Australian Christian aid agency EARS Incorporated, which aims to reduce the incidence and impact of hearing impairment through training and equipping local individuals and organisations in developing countries. They helped set up a hearing clinic and training centre to be self-sustaining.
In a visit last month, Mr Bartlett led an outreach team of audiology students and supervisors from University of Melbourne, to see over 1,000 patients alongside the Malawian clinic staff, which now boasts seven local clinicians.
By 2023, with the next anticipated graduation of audiology students, Dr Bartlett said Malawi should have more audiology clinics and audiologists.
"You keep working towards that goal, always feeling you still need to make sure things are going right," Mr Bartlett said. "We can train audiologists but they need positions in the health system. We're hopeful and pleased with the clinic, but the job's not done."
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