A Nunavik nonprofit organization for people with hearing loss is working on its first initiative this fall.
A winner of the 2020 Arctic Inspiration Prize category for $500,000, Tusaajuit is a collaborative project developed by staff at Nunavik's school board and its regional health agency.
It aims to reduce the long-term impacts of hearing loss and improve the well-being and social integration of hard-of-hearing individuals by focusing on hearing loss prevention care and community-led initiatives.
A Nunavik Inuit Health Survey in 2004 found that a quarter of adults in the region have hearing loss in both ears, with men more than three times more likely than women to be affected. In Nunavik and Nunavut, high rates of hearing loss are said to be caused by reoccurring infections and hearing loss has been described as a crisis.
Focus on children to start this fall
Tusaajuit's first initiative will involve working with children this fall.
The organization will be providing tools, equipment and programming that will support students with hearing challenges in the schools of 14 Nunavik communities over the next three years.
Tusaajuit treasurer Andy Moorehouse said this is important given that hearing loss often makes education challenging for children.
"If we do have one child that has hearing challenges, for us it's one too many," he said.
"[We want to] make sure that children are able to access proper hearing health care, but also to make sure that they have the best opportunity to reach their full potential and to reach the level of education that they need without the challenge of the loss of hearing."
This is combined with the challenge of accessing an audiologist in the North, which Moorehouse said is important to address because only a handful of hearing specialists travel to communities in Nunavik and none of them live in the region permanently.
According to Moorehouse, Tusaajuit's main purpose is to create initiatives that will help improve and support existing services in the region by providing hearing tests and specific programs for children in schools.
"[We want] to make sure that families are well aware of what services should be provided in the region," he said, "and also the best options that each individual may require for hearing care."