Hearing loss impacts school attendance among Australia's aboriginal children



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A pioneering recent study among Northern Territory (NT) aboriginal children in Australia has shown that preventable hearing impairment is negatively impacting their first years of primary school attendance.

Researchers looked at the association between hearing impairment (HI) and Year One school attendance in Aboriginal children in the NT, concluding that kids from this population group with any level of hearing impairment will miss school more than their peers with normal hearing. More than a third of children (36.3%) surveyed had bilateral hearing loss, and more than half (55.1%) had unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.

The cause of hearing impairment in the vast majority of children is otitis media. "The silent way in which HI presents in young Aboriginal students can make it difficult to detect, especially for teachers who may be unfamiliar with the children," concluded the study, which was led by Dr. Jiunn-Yih Su with the Centre for Child Development and Education, Menzies School of Health Research, and the Charles Darwin University.

The researchers recommend "regular surveillance of the infection and hearing for all Aboriginal children living in remote communities. This should be provided during early childhood, when they are entering pre-school, and/or their first year of compulsory full-time education."

Average school attendance rates in Northern Territory have fallen over the last decade and are a concern. The implications for children are poor educational outcomes and life prospects.

The full paper was published in the Public Health Association of Australia’s journal, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Read the study here

Source: Public Health Association of Australia