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The recently released report,Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory: Hearing Health services 2012-2013 presents promising data which highlight the positive effects of hearing health services for Indigenous children in the Northern Territory (NT). The report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) states that, although middle ear conditions are still a common condition experienced by Indigenous children, there have been long term improvements in children's ear health.
The report outlines the findings of the hearing health services delivered under the National Partnership Agreement on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (SFNT) during 2012-13. The program replaced and expanded services delivered through the Child Health Check Initiative/Closing the Gap program which ran from August 2007 to June 2012.
The report shows that during 2012-13, 1,807 audiology services were provided to 1,541 Indigenous children. These services are available to all Indigenous children under 16 years of age living in the NT.
'Seventy-two per cent of children who received audiology services were diagnosed with at least one type of middle ear condition,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman. 'Two-thirds of those with a middle ear condition had some form of hearing loss.'
The report data reveal that for children who received three or more services over the course of all programs (August 2007 to June 2013), the proportion with at least one type of middle ear infection dropped from 84% at first service to 54% at last service. The proportion with hearing loss dropped from 85% to 64% and the proportion with moderate, severe or profound hearing impairment dropped from 23% to 8%.
There is evidence to suggest that improvements in children's ear health are likely the result of a combination of factors, including the natural process of maturation (where the incidence and prevalence of ear disease decreases with increasing age), and medical and public health interventions.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare