Early detection project for childhood ear infections

A Telethon Kids Institute researcher and Princess Margaret Hospital audiologist is utilising telehealth technology and community based Aboriginal health workers to reduce high rates of hearing loss in urban Aboriginal children.

Dr Chris Brennan Jones has been awarded a fellowship to undertake this project by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The project will increase early detection and treatment for children suffering with Otitis Media – a group of middle ear infections, which is the leading cause of childhood hearing loss.

Finding new ways to identify and treat this condition earlier is vital.

Otitis Media affects more than half of all aboriginal children, causing life-long hearing impairment and delayed development.

The study will also improve the delivery of routine audiology and Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) services for these children. The current wait times for audiology and ENT assessments for children in WA’s public health system can be up to two and a half years.

Roger Cook, Minister for health, said children everywhere will benefit from this program if it means screening for ear infections can be done much earlier in their lives.

“It means we can get to those kids earlier in the life of diseases… We provide better treatment quicker for them and give them a better start to life,” Mr Cook said.

Local Aboriginal ear health specialist have been trained to conduct routine audiology and ENT tests, and will screen select children from two south metropolitan areas of Perth.

The results of these tests will be sent to a team of PMH ear health specialists to review and develop necessary treatment plans.

Families of children requiring treatment will be given the option of getting the plan from their local ear-health specialist or via a live telehealth consult with the PMH team.

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