4727.0.55.001 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012-13  
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Contents >> Long-term health conditions >> Ear diseases and hearing problems


EAR DISEASES AND HEARING PROBLEMS

In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, hearing loss continues to be a health issue of concern. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, hearing loss is caused by chronic otitis media (middle ear infection) in childhood. Aside from the difficulties that hearing loss may cause in daily social interactions, children that experience hearing loss may have difficulty following what is being taught at school, which, in turn, may lead to poorer educational and employment outcomes in later life (Endnote 1).


RESULTS FROM 2012–13

In 2012–13, around one in eight (12%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having diseases of the ear and mastoid and/or hearing problems.

Within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, the prevalence of ear/hearing problems was similar for males and females (13% and 12% respectively).

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with ear/hearing problems increased with age, ranging from around one in fourteen (7%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years, to just over one-quarter (28%) of those aged 55 years and over.

Around one in thirty (3%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years were reported to have hearing loss. The same proportion (3%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were reported to have otitis media. Chronic otitis media is the most common cause of hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. In all other age groups, hearing loss was the most commonly reported ear/hearing problem, affecting between 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 years to 26% of those aged 55 years and over.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with ear/hearing problems was the same in non-remote areas and remote areas (both 12%).


CHANGE OVER TIME

Between 2001 and 2012–13, the prevalence of ear/hearing problems in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population decreased significantly from 15% to 12%. While rates for ear/hearing problems have fallen in both non-remote and remote areas over the past decade, the decrease in non-remote areas was not statistically significant.


HOW DO THESE RATES COMPARE WITH THE RATES FOR NON-INDIGENOUS PEOPLE?

After adjusting for differences in age structure between the two populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were significantly more likely than non-Indigenous people to have diseases of the ear and mastoid and/or hearing problems (rate ratio of 1.3). There were statistically significant differences between age standardised rates for both males (rate ratio of 1.2) and females (rate ratio of 1.5), and in all age groups under 55 years.

Graph Image for Ear diseases and hearing problems, by Indigenous status and age

Footnote(s): (a) Difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous rate is not statistically significant.

Source(s): 2012-13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and 2011-12 Australian Health Survey




ENDNOTE

1. http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/health/ear-health-and-hearing-loss

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