Current Projects

Sound Outcomes

First Voice member and affiliated centres collect listening and spoken language outcome data from children enrolled in its early intervention programs.

This data is consolidated into one of the largest collections of data on deaf and hearing-impaired children enrolled in early intervention services in the world.

First Voice analyses and releases a report on its member centres’ collective outcome data on an annual basis.

This data allows First Voice members to track and measure the listening and spoken language outcomes of children receiving early intervention services and continue to review and improve their programs and services.

Previous year’s Sound Outcomes reports are available in previous projects.

Review of reported outcomes from interventions for children with hearing loss

First Voice commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a literature review of the measurable outcomes arising from different communication learning pathways for children who are deaf or hearing impaired. The purpose of the review was to ascertain the effectiveness of the listening and spoken language approach provided by First Voice member centres for children who are deaf or hearing impaired compared with other models of language learning.

The measurable outcomes of interest for children with hearing loss included:

    • early development outcomes (communication, speech, language)
    • learning outcomes (school and post-secondary) and
    • life-long social and wellbeing outcomes

These outcomes align with parent’s aspirations for their child, service provider objectives, and the goal of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to optimise the social and economic independence of people with disabilities. The available evidence shows that the most effective pathway for children with hearing loss in bringing about early development and schooling outcomes is early intervention in a multi-disciplinary team and with high levels of family involvement.

A multi-disciplinary approach is seen as vital to the development of children with hearing loss. This is because of the complexity of developing fluent communication in pre-lingual children and the need for shared expertise and close collaboration between the key disciplines of spoken language therapy paediatric audiology, speech pathology, deaf education, family counselling and relevant medical sciences. This is even more the case in assisting children who are hearing impaired with additional needs. Given the significant impact of family on a child’s development, a family based practice also means learning and support is more likely to be sustained.

With regards to early development and learning outcomes, evidence supports the listening and spoken language approach (auditory verbal therapy and auditory oral therapy) as an effective therapy. Given the vast majority of children with hearing loss are born to parents who hear and speak, this is an important finding.

A full copy of the report was launched by the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, the Hon Jane Prentice MP, on World Hearing Day on 3 March 2017.

 

Cost benefit analysis of First Voice members’ early intervention programs

 

Deloitte Access Economics was commissioned by First Voice to conduct a cost benefit analysis of the early intervention services provided by First Voice members. The cost benefit analysis analysed the costs and benefits of these early intervention services over a 50 year timeframe. This timeframe takes into account that most of the benefits occur later in life while costs were incurred over the period of the program.

The base year for the analysis was 2015, and during this year there were approximately 800 children enrolled in First Voice members’ early intervention programs of whom 634 had bilateral hearing losses. The comparison group were children who had hearing impairment and had received an aid or implant but were not enrolled in any early intervention program.

Costs in the analysis were calculated as the cost of providing the services, as well as other economic costs such as transport for appointment, a parent leaving the workforce, childcare for other siblings and deadweight losses. The benefits attributed to First Voice members’ early intervention programs include the increase in income due to improved employment and educational attainment of participants, improvements in participants’ wellbeing, avoided school costs and avoided deadweight losses.

Compared to the costs, the benefits of these early intervention programs are realised over a variety of timeframes. Some benefits are realised much later in a child’s life, such as the increased income, while others are realised throughout the child’s life such as improvements in wellbeing.

The total net present value (NPV) cost per child in 2015 dollars was $215,556, while the NPV total benefit per child was $464,711. The ratio between the two resulted in a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 2.2. Therefore, on average, for every dollar invested in First Voice member early intervention programs, there is a $2.20 return in benefits.

These estimates indicate that First Voice members’ listening and spoken language early childhood intervention programs provide value for money in terms of improving educational outcomes, employment outcomes and wellbeing outcomes for children with hearing loss. Investing additional funding into these programs represents a sound investment in improving outcomes for children with hearing impairment.

A full copy of the report was launched by the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, The Hon Jane Prentice MP, on World Hearing Day on 3 March 2017.

Report on education, employment & social outcomes of First Voice member centre graduates (18-28 years)

The aim of this project was to gather information on the social, educational and employment outcomes of children graduating from First Voice members’ early intervention programs in the years 1993 to 2002. These young men and women are now aged between 18 and 28 years.

The method used was a short online survey, which was also available in hard copy. One hundred and fifty-four responses were received from the 839 persons contacted. This response rate was achieved in spite of the fact that contact with most children and their families had been lost years earlier when the child commenced school.

The results show that the overwhelming majority of respondents have developed into independents, contributing members of society, with high levels of education, social participation and full time employment. [Read key results here.]

While comprehensive outcome data are routinely reported for children attending First Voice members’ early intervention programs, little is known about their subsequent education, employment and social participation outcomes. This survey aimed to fill that gap.

The results show that the respondents had achieved academic and employment rates equivalent to or better than those reported for the general Australian population.

A full copy of the report and survey outcomes were launched by the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, Hon Jane Prentice MP on World Hearing Day on 3 March 2017.