Did you know 9 in 10 Aboriginal children in remote areas have otitis media, a serious middle ear infection that can cause hearing loss? That’s the highest rate in the world.*
In 2014, Ear Science Institute Australia trialled its first remote outreach program to help bring down rates of painful middle ear infections. With a team of audiologists (including our own CEO this month), an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist and health promotion staff, we aim to detect and treat ear disease early in a child’s life in an attempt to prevent hearing loss from becoming permanent.
Research shows that improved hearing supports stronger speech development, facilitates better listening and assists with social connections in children*. When all of these things add up, it can make a big difference to the child’s experience at school. In this setting, if you can’t hear, it’s more difficult to learn!
Ear Science CEO, Sandra Bellekom, says the visits are about more than detection.
“An important part of what we do is sharing knowledge. After the team treats patients at the clinics in Jigalong, Punmu and Parnngurr, each of our staff spend time with the community talking and demonstrating methods of improving ear care including strategies for how to prevent ear infections and how to care for the ear if infection does occur. The Healthy Ears Project is highly regarded in each of the communities and our team always receive a warm welcome.”
Sandra joined the team on their last trip as an audiologist, performing in a clinical role and working with families to ensure they receive the ongoing ear care they need.
“These trips are critical to community health by building confidence and local knowledge in self-care – and delivering on our mission to help people with ear and hearing disorders in any way we can.”
Audiologist and Healthy Ears team member, Selina Moyle, says the team are greeted with great enthusiasm in the communities after years of working together.
“It’s a real privilege. On our last visit, we toured a new clinic, attended a school assembly and met two beautiful babies born since our last trip.”
Researchers at Ear Science have been working on new ways to help treat conditions like otitis media. One such innovation is ClearDrum©, an almost invisible ear implant, which is set to revolutionise the way eardrums are repaired by combining silkworms and science to heal burst eardrums experienced by millions of people around the world including the children in our rural communities who suffer from chronic middle ear disease. Read more about ClearDrum© here.
*References available, please contact us for details.