Trial To Tackle High Rates Of Hearing Loss In Urban Aboriginal Population

Trial To Tackle High Rates Of Hearing Loss In Urban Aboriginal Population

Western Australia Minister for Health Roger Cook

Health Researcher In Bid To Break Sound Barrier

Victor P Taffa

  • Trial to tackle high rates of hearing loss in urban Aboriginal population
  • Local researcher awarded National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fellowship to undertake project

A Telethon Kids Institute researcher and Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) audiologist is hoping to discover whether telehealth technology and community-based Aboriginal health workers might be keys to reducing high rates of hearing loss in urban Aboriginal children.

“If successful in fast-tracking screening and treatment, this pilot project could become a model arrangement for other urban areas both here and around the country.” Minister for Health Roger Cook said.

“It has the potential not just to slash wait times but also to provide families with ear health care that is close to home and involves members of their own community.”

Dr. Chris Brennan-Jones is embarking on a study that should streamline the provision of routine audiology and ear, nose and throat (ENT) services for these children.

Goal of the project is to hasten the detection and treatment of children with Otitis Media (OM) a group of middle-ear infections and the leading cause of childhood hearing loss.

OM affects more than half of Aboriginal children, leaving many with life-long hearing impairment and leading to delayed development and an increased risk of poor educational and mental health outcomes.

Despite the potential consequences of untreated OM, wait times for routine audiology and ENT assessments for children in Western Australia’s public health system can be up to two and a half years.

As about half of Aboriginal children aged 6-24 months are already affected by OM and hearing loss, finding new ways of identifying and treating these children earlier is vital.

As part of this project, selected children from two south metropolitan areas of Perth will be screened in their communities by Aboriginal ear health ‘champions’ who have been trained to conduct routine audiology and ENT tests.

Results of these tests will be sent to a team of PMH ear health specialists who will review the results and, where necessary, develop treatment plans.

Families of children requiring treatment will be given the option of getting the plan from their local ear-health champion or via a live telehealth consult with the PMH team.