Hearing loss is one of the most common disabilities in the world. According to the World Health Organisation over 360 million people, including 32 million children, have a disabling hearing loss. This number of expected to increase as the population, especially those over the age of 65 years rises. Studies of hearing loss in the population provide valuable information on the prevalence (total number) and incidence (new cases) of hearing loss and related conditions. These studies also determine risk factors and how it may be related to other health conditions. They provide policy makers and health providers with data on how to manage and treat hearing loss, and how to prioritise research.

Ear Science is involved in two major epidemiology studies with a high international reputation. Both have been running for many decades and have produced impact research publications and guided medical policy and practice.

The Busselton Health Study is currently focussed on Baby Boomers, people born in the 20 years post World War II (1945 to 1965). These people are currently in a stage of life where significant changes in health status can be measured. After concluding the first phase of collecting data from 5100 participants in 2015, the second phase is now retesting all the participants. This will provide unique data on the incidence and progression of diseases and disorders. Ear Science in involved with many collaborators in studying associations between hearing loss and other conditions e.g. with cognition, heart disease, diabetes.

The Raine Cohort Study commenced in 1990 and has followed the health of almost 3000 newborns and their families since then. Ear Science researchers have focused on hearing loss and ear disease, and it’s relation to development, language, and behaviour.


Rob Eikelboom, Chris Brennan-Jones, De Wet Swanepoel, Marcus Atlas

Key publications:

Brennan-Jones CG, Eikelboom RH, Jacques A, Swanepoel DW, Atlas MD, Whitehouse A, Jamieson S, Oddy W. Predominant breast feeding for the first six months of life is protective against middle ear effusion in early childhood: a prospective birth cohort study. Clinical Otolaryngology. Accepted for publication March 2016.

Bucks R, Dunlop P, Taljaard DS, Brennan-Jones CG, Wesnes K, Eikelboom RH. The association between hearing loss and cognition in the Busselton Baby Boomer cohort: an epidemiological study of adults born 1946 to 1964. The Laryngoscope. Published online March 2016.

Brennan-Jones CG, Whitehouse AJO, Park J, Hegarty M, Eikelboom RH, Swanepoel D, White JD, Jamieson SE. Prevalence and risk factors of recurrent otitis media during early childhood in Western Australia: a prospective birth cohort study. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health. 51(4); 403-409; 2015. doi:10.1111/jpc.12741

Swanepoel D, Eikelboom RH, Margolis RH. Revisiting tympanometry screening in school-entry children 5 to 7 years of age. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 25(10):927–936; 2014.

James A, Hunter M, Straker L, Beilby J, Bucks R, Davis T, Eikelboom R, Hillman, Hui J, Hung J, Mackey D, Newton D, Palmer L, Musk B. Rationale, Design and Methods for a Community-Based Study of Clustering and Interactions of Chronic Disease Processes and their Effects on Ageing: The Busselton Healthy Ageing Study. BMC Public Health. 13:936; 2013.