Otitis media (middle ear inflammation) is a common childhood illness that generally resolves either spontaneously or with a short course of antibiotics. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at a significantly higher risk of otitis media and hearing loss compared to non-Indigenous children.
Ninety per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote areas have some form of otitis media which persists throughout childhood. The World Health Organization considers chronic suppurative otitis media, known as runny ears, at a prevalence of four per cent as a public health crisis. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest reported rates of otitis media in the world.
The hearing loss experienced due to otitis media causes delays in language and speech. This can lead to behavioural problems and social isolation; poor school attendance and low levels of literacy and numeracy; poor employment opportunities; and increased poverty. It means kids don’t learn how to socialise, they can be ostracised from peer groups and they don’t learn at school. Their social and educational development suffers.
The issue of hearing is the most prevalent barrier to educational attainment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the Northern Territory. In the NT in 2007 to 2011, 53 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children receiving audiology services had some kind of hearing loss and 33 per cent had a hearing impairment.
Around 90 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people incarcerated in the Northern Territory have hearing loss, which may have influenced their trajectory or compromised their communications with the justice system.
The biennial Otitis Media Australia (OMOZ) Conference offers an evidence-based forum for experts in diverse disciplines to collaborate in reducing the severity and high prevalence of otitis media, hearing loss and social disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The 2018 OMOZ Conference will be held on 14 -16 August in Darwin NT, and will provide a forum for researchers, clinical practitioners, health workers, policy makers, audiologists, speech therapists, ENT surgeons, nurses, consumers, educators and primary health care service providers investigating the prevention and treatment of chronic ear disease and hearing loss in Australia. The conference will be an opportunity to share and learn about the latest evidence-based research, best-practice treatments and prevention methods, and to encourage collaboration to find new approaches to solving this problem.
Registrations are now open.