Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Taking hearing to new heights

Nathan Barlow
Nathan Barlow hopes to put his expertise to good practical use when he volunteers for EarAidNepal in late-2016 or early-2017.

Nathan Barlow is a profoundly deaf cochlear implant user and hearing scientist, who is volunteering with EarAidNepal in Pokhara (Nepal) in late-2016 or early-2017. He’ll be working as a hearing screener at the Pokhara Ear Hospital and hopes to return for a mobile ear camp in the future, taking health advice and assistance to some of the more remote areas near Annapurna.

He will be assessing and screening locals for ear health and hearing problems and referring them to audiologists and ENT surgeons where appropriate. To help fund this, he recently held a showing of the film “Everest,” and the $1,000 proceeds from this will go towards buying solar powered hearing aids and chargers for EarAidNepal’s clinic in Pokara Hospital. Unused hearing aids donated from the New Zealand community, as well as from Phonak New Zealand, will also find a new home in Nepal.

Nathan’s interest, sparked in a very personal way through receiving a cochlear implant as a 21-year-old, has seen him recently complete his Master of Science in Speech Science, with honours, at the Tāmaki Campus School of Psychology. He calls his Australian-developed 24-electrode implant far superior to the hearing aids he had as a young child in the UK, and young adult in NZ.

Working alongside Professor Suzanne Purdy Head of Speech Science, Nathan has made significant steps with his interests in cochlear implant brain neuroplasticity and changes at the auditory points of the temporal lobes in response to hearing sound. These influence understanding and translation of sounds into hearing, and working on ways to train the brain to decode these is critical to the success of implants.

His work included a research project to assess a computer-based programme that can offer one on one hearing-based therapy, lightening the time workload on therapists. Results showed an 86% improvement in hearing cognition within the first week of training, and has inspired him to continue his career path of qualifying as an audiologist.

Nathan feels his volunteer work in Nepal will give him good practical experience in audiology and his range of interests associated with artificial hearing, auditory neurophysiology and clinical measures for cochlear implants will help contribute to population health in Nepal.

While he expects the majority of his time in Nepal will be taken up with EarAidNepal work, he hopes to be able to visit some of the Annapurna region, weather permitting.

However, he says, if anyone is interested in contributing to his fundraising, he can be contacted at nbar067@aucklanduni.ac.nz.