Childhood middle ear infection affects Aboriginal learning

28 February 2011

Childhood middle ear infection affects Aboriginal learning
A multi-faceted program to improve ear health among Aboriginal children has begun in the
Goldfields of Western Australia.
It follows a previous study among Indigenous children, ranging in age from birth to two years, that
found middle ear disease was present in 50 per cent of those examined, with 32 per cent suffering
moderate to severe hearing loss.
Associate Professor Deborah Lehman, from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in
Perth, said middle ear infection “is frequently asymptomatic – hence parents do not seek medical
advice until late in the disease process’’.
To counter the spread a range of health promotional activities and regular ear screening was
instituted. Soap making workshops were held in Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie and Menzies to encourage
health awareness. A video-otoscope was also used to allow people to view their eardrums on a
laptop screen, while ‘glitterbug’ technology introduced another fun element to the program. This
involves wetting hands with a fluorescent lotion before shining a light to gauge how effectively the
glitter had been washed away.
Dr Lehman said the project, including six music workshops, had drawn the attention of health staff
and Indigenous families to the importance of sound ear health, while providing communities with
methods of prevention.
‘Good ears, good learning’ is the theme of a paper Dr Lehman will present at the 11th biennial
National Rural Health Conference at the Perth Convention Centre, 13-16 March. More than 900
delegates from all parts of Australia will be at the event.
To register go to