Middle ear infections can be a major reason for hearing problems in young children. When left untreated or when they constantly recur through a child’s first years, early learning and development can be profoundly affected. Speech, language and social behaviour delays are common signs of hearing loss. The impacts reach far into children’s future lives.
Hearing loss disproportionately affects Aboriginal children. According to Earbus Foundation of Western Australia (WA). On average, a staggering 32 months of an Aboriginal child’s first five years is spent suffering from middle ear disease. That is more than half of their life before school. In some remote communities, 100 per cent of Aboriginal children are affected. This compares to a three-month average for other Australian children.
The WA Earbus program, with support from the Ian Potter Foundation, is tackling the problem. Rather than expecting Aboriginal families and communities ‘to negotiate their way through white fella mainstream services’, the Earbus program takes medical practitioners to Aboriginal people. Earbus Foundation CEO, Paul Higginbotham says it’s a program ‘designed by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people’ and is proving effective in keeping children on track to treatment ‘from first contact to wellness’.
You can find resources and learn more about the Earbus Foundation and its work in WA at www.earbus.org.au.
Earbus Foundation of WA—www.earbus.org.au
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet —www.healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/other-health-conditions/ear/reviews/our-review
Information for families with young children
Aussie Deaf Kids—www.aussiedeafkids.org.au