Ear and hearing health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Healthy ears and healthy hearing help people connect with language and culture, help kids learn at school, and increase job opportunities. Our policies and programs aim to prevent, treat and monitor ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Preventing ear disease
Otitis media is a type of ear disease that can cause hearing loss. Hearing loss can affect a person’s experiences with family, community, culture, school and work.
We fund initiatives and resources to help prevent ear disease and hearing loss, and to identify children who need support services.
Ear health support
The Equipment Program supplies, maintains and repairs ear and hearing health assessment equipment, for free, in:
- Australian Government-funded Aboriginal Medical Services
- health services whose clients are mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
Contact Sonic Innovations to find out whether your service is eligible to receive equipment.
Ear health assessment training
EarTrain provides free national online training to health professionals, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, general practitioners and nurses. The courses build the skills needed to assess and manage ear and hearing health.
Ear health coordinators
Ear health coordinators work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health services to:
- build skills and knowledge that help to prevent and treat ear disease and hearing loss
- identify pathways to other services related to ear health for people who need further treatment, like surgery.
To find an ear health coordinator in your state or territory, contact:
- National – National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
- NSW/ACT – Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council or NSW Rural Doctors Network
- NT – Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory
- Qld – Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council
- SA – Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia
- Tas – Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation
- Vic – Victoria Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or Rural Workforce Agency Victoria Limited
- WA – Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia or Rural Health West.
Hearing for Learning Initiative
The Hearing for Learning Initiative trains and employs Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members as ear health project officers in the Northern Territory. They help primary care services and health professionals diagnose and manage ear disease or refer children for specialist treatment.
Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears
The Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears aims to prevent hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the years before they start school.
Hearing Australia delivers the program in consultation with communities and health services. Audiologists provide ear and hearing health assessments and recommendations for any follow-up care required.
Many people who live in rural, remote and some urban areas depend on outreach health services – where health professionals travel from other areas to provide care.
We support these health professionals by covering some costs – like travel and accommodation – so that people can access eye and ear care services regardless of where they live.
We fund organisations in each state and territory to manage and deliver these outreach programs:
- NSW – NSW Rural Doctors Network
- NT – NT Department of Health
- Qld – CheckUp Australia
- SA – Rural Doctors Workforce Agency
- Tas – Department of Health and Human Services, and Rural Health Tasmania for the Eye and Ear Surgical Support Program
- Vic – Rural Workforce Agency Victoria
- WA – Rural Health West.
We support the following ear and hearing health outreach programs.
Healthy Ears – Better Hearing, Better Listening Program
Healthy Ears provides funding:
- for primary health care professionals to screen and treat Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people for ear and hearing problems
- to improve access to follow-up or ongoing care like speech pathology or specialist treatment.
Healthy Ears focuses on children and young people aged up to 21 years who live in rural and remote areas of Australia.
Ear Surgical Support Program
The Ear Surgical Support Program supports more timely and convenient ear surgery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who live in rural and remote areas.
It funds the travel and accommodation costs for:
- health professionals who provide visiting surgical services, so that they can get as close as possible to rural and remote patients’ homes
- for patients and carers who need to travel to access surgery.
Learn more about outreach services
The following free resources are available:
- Care for Kids’ Ears helps parents, carers, teachers, teachers’ aides, early childhood workers and health professionals recognise and prevent ear disease in children. It offers various resources to support ear and hearing health.
- PLUM & HATS (Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure, and Hearing and Talking Scale) are questionnaires that help screen how babies and toddlers listen and communicate. They give primary care providers, early education staff, parents and carers confidence and knowledge to identify problems with listening and talking in very young children.
Otitis media (middle ear infection) clinical care guidelines provides advice to health professionals to help them manage ear conditions. The guidelines are also available as an Android or iOS app.