'Critical mass' for deaf education

Cochlear implant pioneer and Founding Director of La Trobe University's new Centre for Bionic Ear and Neurosensory Research, Professor Graeme Clark, has 'wholeheartedly' congratulated Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson for their announcement yesterday that the Federal Government will introduce a national screening program for deafness.


Prof. Graeme Clark (left) and Dr Tony Paolini.

The La Trobe University Graeme Clark Centre was set up late last year, boosting cross-disciplinary research including cognitive approaches to language and speech development, to improve treatments for hearing and other neurosensory disorders. It is also working towards a new generation of 'hi-fi' cochlear implants.

'Like my professional colleagues, I have waited for over 40 years for a change in the health system to ensure the early diagnosis of deafness in children,' Professor Clark said.

He said moderate to profound hearing losses must be diagnosed before the age of 12 months, with hearing aids provided when the loss is not severe, and a cochlear implant when the loss is severe to profound.

'If these measures are taken there is a great need to ensure that all schools provide appropriate educational methods so that speech and language are achieved in children at near normal levels.

'This new legislation will then enable severe to profoundly deaf children to compete with their hearing peers on a normal footing,' Professor Clark added.

'With early diagnosis, hearing aids or cochlear implants, as well as auditory verbal education, children will not only be able to achieve their true potential - but the country will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational expenses and the loss of work capability.'

The new Graeme Clark Centre for Bionic Ear and Neurosensory Research at La Trobe University will undertake studies to help ensure that the right methods of education for people with hearing difficulties are used to the full.  The Centre has links with the School of Psychological Sciences, Human Communication Sciences and the University's new Institute for Social Participation.

'A critical mass of educational and research collaboration is being established at La Trobe to move with the times in the education of deaf children,' Professor Clark said.  

'In the United States they now cover 95% of the children and in Sweden 95% of profoundly deaf children have a cochlear implant and the government will provide bilateral implants if they are justified.'


Professor Graeme Clark
Phone: 03 9439 0064
Mobile: 0448 807 201

Ernest Raetz
Media and Communications
Phone: 03 9479 2315
Email: e.raetz@latrobe.edu.au