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This project (2008 - 2012) aimed to investigate the effect of swimming in salt-water chlorinated pools on the prevalence of middle ear infections and related hearing status in school-age children in remote Indigenous communities on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of northern South Australia and in Yalata in the state's far west. The research project was a collaborative work with the Anangu Education Service of the South Australian Department of Education and Children's Services (DECS).
Prior to the Swimming Pool Study, Associate Professor Sanchez and her team conducted hearing assessments of school-age children in the APY Lands between 2003 - 2008, with funding provided by DECS. During this time they identified a high level of middle ear disease and related conductive hearing loss. Typically approximately 70% of school-age children failed the screening test of hearing and more than 30% of ears in these children were found to have eardrum perforations, about half of which have active disease (discharging ears).
These findings were instrumental in promoting the improvement of school infrastructure in these areas, including the installation of sound-field amplification systems in classrooms. The existing longitudinal data form the baseline for this three year study, which compared data from school-age children in Anangu communities with and without swimming pools, both prior to and after the swimming season, to determine whether pool use really does improve ear health and consequently hearing.
This project was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, 2009-2011. Project investigators included Associate Professor Linnett Sanchez, Ms. Karen Sparrow, Professor Simon Carney, all of the School of Medicine, Flinders University.
Abstract adapted from the Lowitja Institute
This document reports on a study to investigate whether the use of swimming pools by school-age Indigenous children in remote semi-arid communities in central Australia results in the reduction and possible prevention of conductive hearing loss related to otitis media (OM) in these children.
Between 2009 - 2011, multiple clinical assessments of ear health and hearing - including Ear, nose and throat (ENT) diagnoses - were conducted on 813 school age children, which allow comparison of the results for children living in the four Anangu communities with a swimming pool compared to those living in the six communities without a pool. Many children were assessed on multiple occasions with 46% of the children being assessed on at least three of the possible six occasions over the three year study period (2107 child assessments in total).
The study's results demonstrate that access to swimming pools does not result in improvement in any of three principal measured indices of hearing or ear health. Additionally, in relation to the policy of 'no school, no pool', there is no evidence that access to a swimming pool results in improved school attendance. Further, results show previously undescribed seasonal differences in the prevalence of eardrum perforations in these Indigenous populations. Other results show significant associations between dry eardrum perforation and hearing loss and age.
This research report was funded by the Hearing Loss Prevention Program of the Department of Health and Ageing and conducted by Flinders University and its collaborating partner, the Anangu Education Service of the South Australian (SA) Department of Education and Child Development.
Abstract adapted from Flinders University