24 November 2016
Appalling ear disease rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander People in Australia still exist.
Ear disease experts including surgeons, audiologists,
paediatricians, researchers and Aboriginal medical service workers
are in Canberra today to discuss a national solution.
Australia's first Aboriginal surgeon Associate Professor Kelvin
Kong says disadvantage is being compounded by a 'pandemic of
deafness' among Australia's first people.
"Otitis media, or middle ear infections, should not be a normal
part of childhood - yet we are seeing extraordinarily high rates of
hearing loss from this condition," Dr Kong said.
"This is not just a rural issue. In Newcastle where I work, one
fifth of the local health district catchment identifies as
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and rates of ear disease are
on par with other parts of Australia. The further out bush you go,
the worse it gets.
"Ear disease and hearing loss can lead to delayed speech and
educational development, low self-esteem, unemployment and a range
of other health, social and economic problems.
"What we have is a national disgrace. If children can't hear,
they can't learn. They may become truants, leave school early, and
then be stuck with no job or income. Beautiful bright children can
then become unemployable, due to circumstances over which they have
"Sixty per cent of children in youth detention centres are
Aboriginal, of whom approximately 80 cent have ongoing significant
hearing issues when tested.
"In adult facilities, a study in the Northern Territory found
that overall 94 per cent of Aboriginal inmates had significant
"This group of experts wants a more coordinated and effective
approach to address the difficult but treatable ear disease issues
and it's timely considering the investigations into correctional
facilities. The Assistant Minister for Health Ken Wyatt and other
Parliamentarians have been supportive but we need action.
"We must work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
communities to help end this preventable disease, which doesn't
exist in other first world countries, and we need the government's
support to do it."
Watch a short video about the issue: https://vimeo.com/rollingball/review/187118895/b625d2fd1c
Join the conversation on Twitter: #EarHealthForLife
Download full media release (PDF 135KB)