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Indigenous Australians have one of the highest levels of ear disease and hearing loss in the world.
Rates are up to ten times more than non-Indigenous Australians and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) estimates Indigenous healthcare is currently 30 to 50 years behind the rest of the country.
Studies have shown the occurrence of middle ear disease and hearing loss for Indigenous school children aged 4-12 years in a selection of schools in New South Wales (NSW), found that more than 61% of children had ear problems of some type. Unilateral hearing loss was found in more than 10% of the children, and 22% of the children suffered bilateral hearing loss.
A survey of over 700 Indigenous children living in remote communities in northern and central Australia found that 91% of children aged 6-30 months had been diagnosed with some form of otitis media (OM). Perforations of the tympanic membrane affected 40% of children before the age of 18 months.
The inability to hear can rob children of the chance to thrive at school, access jobs and can result in problems with the judicial system. But there are breakthroughs being made, like in the Hunter region of NSW.
'The Healthy hearing program at Awabakal Aboriginal Primary Health Care Centre in Newcastle, has seen waiting time reduced from three years to two months,' Justin Mohamed, NACCHO Chairman said.
One of the reasons why the waiting list has been dramatically reduced is because the program’s model was created specifically for the service, and involves visiting ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Professor Kelvin Kong. Professor Kong, an Aboriginal surgeon, says his understanding of Indigenous issues and the community medical centre taking control of the issues has made a huge difference.
'This model could be adopted elsewhere if other services had the resources,' said Mr Mohamed.
Source: ABC Bush Telegraph