Hearing health outreach services in Australia’s Northern Territory

Report

Australia’s Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)has released its third annual report on health outreach services in these communities, which brought audiology care to nearly 2,500 children for the 2014-2015 period. Across the full duration of the outreach program, nearly 7,000 audiology services have been provided. Evidence has shown that indigenous populations in this part of Australia have a high prevalence of ear and hearing problems, a situation that prompted the outreach program.

Between 2012 and 2015, among the 1,230 children and young people who received two or more audiology services, nearly 1,000 had hearing loss at their first audiology service. Results showed that one third of these recipients had normal hearing abilities at their most recent appointment, and 44% had functional improvements in their hearing. Improvements in the level of impairment were found for more than half of the treated individuals.

One of the major challenges in providing services in the Northern Territory is the vast distances between communities and the fact that they are highly mobile. Other issues include weather conditions and logistic limitations. One of the solutions highlighted in the report is a tele-otology approach. This method is defined as providing an offsite service whereby specialists assess middle ear function, diagnose conditions, and recommend further actions and treatment, on the basis of clinical information provided to them electronically by an audiologist or an ENT nurse consultant.

Source: AIHW 2015. Hearing health outreach services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the Northern Territory: 2012–13 to 2014–15. Cat. no. IHW 163. Canberra: AIHW.

C.S.