Close the Gap - Indigenous Ear Health

5 Dec 2017

Indigenous Ear Health[1]

The harrowing story of a six year old Indigenous child in Newcastle, who presented to surgeon, Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, with a maggot in her ear was shared at the launch of the latest AMA’s Report Card on Indigenous Health. 

This year’s report focusses on the prevalence of chronic otitis media, a group of inflammatory conditions of the middle ear.  Associate Professor Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, said the family of the young boy had tried to get help on more than six occasions, including at a hospital emergency department. 

"It broke my heart that this kid had been diagnosed with autism, with Aspergers, with other kind of behavioural issues, when no-one bothered to do a simple thing as a hearing test."

The Report Card cites research from Northern Territory Indigenous communities, which shows only seven per cent of children assessed have ‘normal’ ears.

Estimates show an Indigenous child will suffer middle ear infections and associated hearing loss on average for 32 months from the age of two to 20 years - compared to just three months for non-Indigenous children.

Dr Gannon said everyone at the launch had probably experienced such ear inflammation at some point, but rates in Indigenous communities are reported to be the highest in the world.

“You can see how a potentially harmless bacterial infection can, if unchecked, if untreated, literally ruin someone’s life,” Dr Gannon said.

“It is time that Australia – one of the healthiest and wealthiest countries in the world – draws a line under the persistent and ignominious ear health crisis occurring in too many of our Indigenous communities."


[1]  Article from Australian Medical Association (AMA) Rounds – 1 December 2017