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|Risk factors for Australian school-age children in socio-economically disadvantaged populations ...||325.75 KB|
The consequences of sensorineural hearing loss in young children include poor speech and language development, poor educational outcomes and delayed socio-emotional development. For children who face socio-economic disadvantage, middle ear disease is more prevalent, access to primary health care is more difficult, and psychosocial and education supports are limited. Because of this, the consequences may be amplified. Understanding the risks associated with hearing loss and middle ear dysfunction in underserved populations can enable an earlier, more targeted and cost-effective approach to identifying those with hearing loss and effectively connecting them to systems of care.
This retrospective study describes the outcomes of an ear and hearing screening program for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds (n = 2489; mean age 11.0 years, standard deviation 1.74 years) in New South Wales, Australia, between 2013 and 2016.
The study found that higher risks of middle ear dysfunction were associated with younger age and seasonal variation, with higher risk in winter and spring months (July–September and October–December, compared with January–March). Participants were grouped into three subcategories based on their results: 1) pass; 2) did not pass hearing screen with or without middle ear dysfunction; and 3) current middle ear dysfunction alone. Overall, 285 children (11.5%) did not pass the hearing screen, and 719 (28.9%) presented with middle ear dysfunction alone. There were no differences between those from NESB and those with English as a first language, between the Aboriginal population and non-Aboriginal population, or between those who resided within or outside a major city.
The findings show that more than one in 10 school-age children from lower socio-economic backgrounds experience hearing loss. Targeted ear and hearing screening programs offer an opportunity to identify hearing loss during critical learning years and seasons, mitigating longer-term effects on education, and social and mental health.