Children's hearing loss (ATSI childhood health issues)

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Childrens hearing loss

Childrens hearing lossElisabeth Jackson +Why is it important?Hearing loss can lead to linguistic, social and learning difficulties and behavioural problems in school, which reduce educational achievements that have life-long consequences for employment, income, and social success (Williams & Jacobs 2009).

+Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear) is thought to be more common and severe among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children because of poverty, crowded housing conditions, inadequate access to water and to functioning sewerage and waste-removal systems (increasing the risk of bacterial and viral infections), passive smoking, nutritional problems and lack of access to primary health care and treatment.

2FindingsComparative data from 200405 shows that Indigenous children were 3 times as likely to have reported ear or hearing problems compared with other Australian children. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) confirms the associations between the presence of ear or hearing problems and social conditions.

+For example, in 200405, ear/hearing problems were more common for children living in overcrowded households (15% versus 8%), those living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas (15% versus 11% for the most advantaged areas) and those living in households with regular smokers (10% versus 8%).

3ImplicationsThe prevalence of chronic ear disease is significantly higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than other children in self reported surveys.Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media occurs in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at levels described by the World Health Organization as a massive public health problem requiring urgent attention (WHO 2004).

+Evidence suggests that a comprehensive approach that combines early treatment, management and referral, linkages with school screening programs, preventative, social, environmental and economic strategies will be most successful in addressing these high levels of chronic otitis media. If funding is not continuous then children in these communities will continue to experience significant health inequalities. 4

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