Hearing loss is a critical public health concern for older Māori and whānau. Māori over 65 years have higher rates of self-reported disabling hearing loss in Aotearoa New Zealand yet have greater unmet need for special equipment than non-Māori. This is concerning, as evidence shows that older adults with untreated hearing loss may develop a wide cascade of conditions including communication difficulties, social isolation, depression, accelerated cognitive decline, impaired driving ability, poorer balance, and increased risk of dementia.
As an oral-based society, issues with hearing loss and access to hearing services have particular implications for Māori. Hearing loss restricts access to the social determinants of health. This in connection with ongoing impacts of colonisation, generates significant restrictions for older Māori with hearing loss to maintain their language and connections. Consequently, Māori with untreated hearing loss may be more likely to experience significant disparities in health and wellbeing than non-Māori with untreated hearing loss.
Funded by Brain Research New Zealand, ‘Taringa Whakarongo’ is a doctoral study of Alehandrea Manuel (Ngāti Porou) under the supervision of Associate Professor Grant Searchfield and Associate Professor Elana Curtis (Ngāti Rongomai, Ngāti Pikiao, Te Arawa). The research utilises Kaupapa Māori research theory, methodology, and praxis to bring realities of older Māori and whānau in Tamaki Makaurau to the forefront. The research objectives include: (1) explore older Māori experiences of hearing loss and hearing services; (2) examine whānau experiences of hearing services and the various impacts hearing loss has on whānau; and (3) analyse hearing health care workforce and Māori health provider perspectives of hearing loss and hearing service provision for Māori.
For this study, research partners included: people aged 60-and-above who selfidentify as Māori with a self-reported hearing loss, and their whānau (whakapapa whānau and kaupapa whānau); hearing health care professionals (audiologists and hearing therapists); and Māori health professionals. Semi-structured whānau interviews are still underway, with eight whānau interviews and two focus groups with health professionals completed thus far. Preliminary findings of the study will be discussed. These are the first narratives on hearing loss and hearing services among older Māori, whānau, and health care professionals to ever be presented.
Along with a report of the findings and use of Kaupapa Māori methodology for this study, Alehandrea will share her positionality in this research as a junior Kaupapa Māori researcher who has walked through the doors of hearing services as an indigenous audiologist and as a whānau member. With continuing guidance from research partners, it is hoped the research will inform policies, strategies, and interventions in Aotearoa that strengthen older Māori roles and whānau relationships.