Indigenous children have the highest reported rates of otitis media (OM), commonly known as middle ear infection, and burst eardrums in the world.
Nine out of 10 young Indigenous children who live in remote communities have some form of ear disease, and currently one in six has burst eardrum(s). These numbers are shocking, yet they are the reality of what is happening in Australia today.
Long-term middle ear damage causes hearing loss, which impacts on the development of speech and language, and is linked to educational disadvantage and behavioural problems. It is estimated that three out of five Indigenous children start school with a hearing impediment as a result of endemic ear disease. Australian Aboriginal children have the highest rates of ear disease in the world, at almost three times the rate of second place getter, Nigeria.
Menzies’ work in otitis media (ear disease) is a longstanding organisational priority. We are trialing a range of new approaches, with some success, including vaccinating pregnant mothers and using different combinations of childhood vaccines in remote communities.