At the conclusion of the school year in November 2023, a Rotary led hearing screening project had conducted 1,739 screenings at 22 primary schools in Tongatapu, Tonga since commencing in January 2023.
The Tongan Ministry of Health in partnership with the Rotary Club of Hampton from Australia and Rotary Club Nuku’alofa, screens children in years 1 and 2 students on Tongatapu.
This Rotary Club of Hampton project was established during discussions between the club’s Chairman for International Service, Peter Read and officials from the Tonga Ministry of Health and community members.  The objective of the project is to develop the capacity within Tonga’s health system, through the provision of training and AUD60,000 worth of audiology screening equipment, to undertake regular screening of the hearing of young children within the country. This is an important step in improving the health and educational outcomes of Tonga’s children.
62 schools will be included in the project in Tongatapu (comprising 70% of the population). The target proposed in the project design for screening under the full program, is between 2000-3000. With the project progressing well, current data indicates that this target will be exceeded by the project completion in November 2024.
Project background
The initial training program will commence with 5 - 6 year-old children who have recently started Primary School. Following initial activities in Tongatapu, the main island in Tonga where there are 7000 children in this age group, it is expected that the program will be extended in subsequent years to other population centres in Tonga.
The project is overseen by the Rotary Club of Nuku’alofa in conjunction with the Audiology Department from Melbourne University and the Ministry of Health, Tonga.  Melbourne University Audiology Department has been working with the Club for several years, supporting the screening of pre-school children in Hampton.

Project objectives are to Identify any hearing problems which may require further attention by specialist medical personnel.  The project is expected to result in significant benefits to the child’s educational and social development. In addition to the children, other beneficiaries of the project will be staff of the Tonga Ministry of Health, particularly the ENT Department of Vaiola Hospital and at the regional Community Health Centres.
This project, which was under preparation for three years, experienced significant delays and lockdowns in Tonga due to Corona Virus and disruption caused by major volcanic activity and prevented travel and development.
Funding for the project has been raised by Rotary clubs in Victoria, NSW, South Australia, Germany, Tonga, Rotary Australia World Community Service, private donors and major support from the Rotary Foundation. Funding also covered the purchase of sets of audiology testing equipment and computers to document results which will be used, after training, by teams from the District Health Centres to screen children at their schools. The project is expected to form part of a regular hearing screening program for Tonga.
Teachers, students, parents and the public will also be presented with educational material informing them of the importance of ear health.
Where results of the screening identify hearing problems, the student will be referred to the ENT clinic in the National Vaiola Hospital for further investigation and intervention as necessary.
(Information for this article was sort from the RAWCS reporting and the Rotary Club of Hampton)