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14 August 2018
Dozens of local Ear Health Project Officers will spearhead a new $7.9 million program to fight hearing loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Northern Territory.
The Hearing for Learning initiative will be established in 20 urban, rural and remote sites, where up to 40 local people will strengthen and complement the work of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) ear specialists.
“This is an exciting new opportunity to remove the preventable blight of hearing loss from current and future generations,” said Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt AM.
“These local ear health warriors will integrate with existing primary care services, to help protect the hearing of up to 5,000 children from birth to 16 years old.
“Lifting the capacity of local families to recognise, report and treat ear problems early promises to help our children reach their full potential.”
The initiative will be implemented by the Menzies School of Health Research and co-led by Professor Amanda Leach and Associate Professor Kelvin Kong.
“Hearing for Learning aims to dramatically lift the capacity for communities to identify ear disease within the first few months of life,” said Minister Wyatt.
“Infants rarely show signs of ear pain, so infections are not detected and diseases like otitis media persist and progress.
“By 12 months of age, only five per cent of First Nations children in remote communities have bilateral normal hearing, compared with over 80 per cent of children in the rest of Australia.”
The Turnbull Government has committed $3 million over three years to Hearing for Learning, along with $2.4 million from the Northern Territory Government and $2.5 million from the Balnaves Foundation.
“Children with undiagnosed hearing loss tend to fall behind at school due to delayed speech and language development,” Minister Wyatt said.
“This can have a huge impact on their early years, future employment opportunities and their chance of a happy and successful life.”
The Menzies School of Health Research aims to make Hearing for Learning a care model that can be replicated across the nation.
Hearing for Learning will complement the Government’s existing ear health programs, including Healthy Ears, which together will receive funding of $81.8 million over four years from 2018–19.
This includes $30 million for a new outreach program to provide annual hearing assessment, referral and follow-up treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children before they start school.
Media contact: Nick Way, Media Adviser 0419 835 449
Authorised by Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Member for Hasluck.