Virtual reality experience replicates life as a child with hearing loss

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(ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
For his mother Philippa, the experience wasn’t quite so matter-of-fact. “It’s wonderful to help new parents to see the impact of hearing loss and why it’s so important to help them with amplification and early intervention as soon as possible,” Dr Fulcher said. “When the whole experience was finished, and we sat down and watched it in its entirety, I found it surprisingly emotional at how isolated and vulnerable I felt,” Mr Hunter said. “It was very emotional to put your mind and your head and your body and transplant into your own child and to experience what they see and hear, or don’t hear. “Often our reply is, ‘Well, if they don’t have hearing aids, that’s setting them up for being bullied because they will sound different, they will act different, they won’t be a part of the groups because it will be too difficult, their speech and language will be delayed; so it’s setting them up for all types of social and long-term poor outcomes’.”While the technology is offered at The Shepherd Centre, Dr Fulcher said the team would work towards sharing it with schools and government bodies. But a new virtual reality (VR) experience, designed to immerse users in a playground and classroom as a child with hearing loss, is helping to foster empathy in parents, teachers and other students. (ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
“You start in the playground and the audio is quite muffled,” he said.”I was really surprised when we were talking to the specialists and we did our first pass at what we thought would be moderate hearing loss, and the expert said, ‘No, you need to go further — it’s much more degraded than that.”After experiencing the muffled audio in the playground, the user is moved to the classroom where the teacher asks you a question but you’re unable to understand. Photo:
Philippa Potaka says it was really emotional to be “transplanted” into her son’s body and experience his hearing loss. And the benefit came from empathy, which would encourage parents and carers to intervene earlier, she said. For anybody with hearing loss, articulating the isolation it causes is almost impossible. For a child, it’s even harder. “We decided we should do it from the perspective of a child … in the classroom and in the playground and do a comparison as to what it would be like with [hearing aids] and without.”Nick Hunter, the creative director from innovation company Paper Moose which led the design, said the VR team worked with audiology specialists to accurately recreate how hearing loss sounds. “They didn’t think I could hear so little,” eight-year-old Tyler Potaka said of his peers.Tyler has bilateral mild to moderate hearing loss, meaning he has hearing loss in both ears. (ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Early intervention importantDr Anne Fulcher, principal listening and spoken word specialist at the Shepherd Centre, said she believed the technology was so powerful that it could lead to better clinical outcomes. (ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham) Photo:
Dr Anne Fulcher believes the VR experience will improve outcomes for children with hearing loss. Photo:
Tyler Potaka says when the VR was trialled in his classroom, it helped his friends understand his hearing. (ABC Radio Sydney: Harriet Tatham)
Isolated and vulnerableThe VR project was launched by Sydney charity The Shepherd Centre and filmed at a Newtown primary school. “A lot of the families say they don’t want their children to wear devices because it makes them look different and the kids will bully them. Photo:
The VR experience was filmed at a Sydney school with students from Tyler’s class. “You really are able to have more empathy, you’re able to sympathise with not being able to hear.”

The experience initially puts you in the shoes of somebody with moderate hearing loss before changing to somebody who uses amplification and can hear normally.
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By Harriet Tatham


September 25, 2018 06:30:24

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The 360-degree VR experience replicates what life is like for a child with hearing loss.
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Caring for the family starts with putting decent food on the table

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Busy in Newcastle’s Cooking Club kitchen, the women are making cottage pie. (ABC Newcastle: Christine Sheridan)
Kirsty Apthorp also loves the cooking classes.”I was self-taught. But it is not a skill that is always handed down from parent to child.For some disadvantaged families, it means there is a lack of knowledge in providing healthy food for their own family later in life.Over the past year, disadvantaged mums in Newcastle have been meeting every week to learn how to cook healthy, nutritious meals for their children.It was an idea created by one woman who wanted to pass on the skill to those who never got the chance to learn.”It’s what I call the Cooking Club, and it’s something I’ve created out of a passion for cooking,” Annie Smith said. Everything I do, I do for my kids.”Study finds strong link between diets of mums and their kidsUniversity of Sydney’s Professor of Allied Health Vicki Flood said healthy nutrition was foundational for kids. I put out a call on Facebook for some volunteers and I made a budget.”Cooking is love made visible, and I really believe that.”Carrianne Morris is a mother of four, who has been coming to the classes. “As I got older, I would start cooking dinner for her in the afternoons because she’d come home tired.”Once a week, 10 mums and a group of volunteers from the Newcastle region come together to cook budget meals.”The women are loving it; the volunteers are loving it. Photo:
Volunteer Anne-Louise (right), teaching two women how to make cottage pie at Newcastle’s Cooking Club. It’s a great environment, and they take home a delicious meal for their family,” Ms Smith said.”I approached a local school that had a lot of kids coming from a lower socio-economic community, and they put me in contact with their chaplain who was involved with a local church that had a commercial kitchen available.”I made recipes that were doable and economical. I moved out of home young, so I never got to learn how to cook or watch mum in the kitchen,” Ms Morris said.”Coming here, I’ve learnt how to freeze things and have less waste — having four boys, that’s very important to know because they eat a lot of food.”

The group of mothers meets once a week to learn how to cook healthy meals. (ABC Newcastle: Christine Sheridan)
“I wanted to share my love of cooking with people who haven’t had that positive person in their life to teach them,” she said.”My mum was a single mum. I love the atmosphere, and the people — we’re all here for each other,” she said.”I have four kids at home, and they’re constantly asking what’s for dinner. Cooking a healthy meal may sound like an easy task. She was a country girl and always made nutritious homemade meals. She said it helped her come up with different meals for the boys at home.”I’m not a good cook. (ABC Newcastle: Christine Sheridan)
“It’s a key time of development and growth — not only is it important physically, but cognitively too,” Professor Flood said.”Data from a national health survey has indicated people have a diet where 35 per cent of their energy intake is from discretionary foods and that is huge. “When junk food displaces core foods, that’s when a problem can occur.”Professor Flood has been involved in a study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which examined the dietary behaviour of 243 mothers and their two-year-old children.It found that poor diet quality in children was strongly linked to low maternal socio-economic status.The study found that children of lower income mothers (less than $40,000 per year) were five times more likely to consume less than one serve of fruit a day, compared to those of higher income mothers.Children of mothers who were younger than 25 years old at the time of birth were three times more likely to consume soft drink and sugary drinks, compared to children with older mothers.”Being a parent is hard work and there are a lot of pressures, so it’s important to provide support for them, as well as creating a healthy food environment for the kids.”
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By Christine Sheridan


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The group of women says Newcastle’s Cooking Club has a fantastic atmosphere. (ABC Newcastle: Christine Sheridan)
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