4715.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2018-19 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/12/2019   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

Ear disease and hearing problems


For many people, hearing loss is caused by long-term otitis media (middle ear infection) in childhood. Children who experience hearing loss may have difficulty following what is being taught at school, which may lead to poorer educational and employment outcomes in later life [1].

Ear disease or hearing problems (self-reported)

The proportion of people who reported having ear disease or hearing problems remained about the same between 2012–13 (12%) and 2018–19 (14%).

The proportion of people with ear disease or hearing problems was:

    • the same for males and females (both 14%)
    • about the same for people living in non-remote areas (14%) and remote areas (13%).

The proportion of people with ear disease or hearing problems generally increased with age. It increased from more than one in 10 for people aged 25–34 years (12%) or 35–44 years (15%) to more than three in 10 (34%) for people aged 55 years and over.

One in 10 (10%) people reported having partial or complete deafness in one or both ears.

The proportion of children aged 0–14 years who were deaf in one or both ears (4%) was about the same as in 2012–13 (3%) [2]. The proportion of children aged 0–14 years with long-term otitis media also did not change between 2012–13 and 2018–19 (both 3%) [2].

Measured levels of hearing

A voluntary hearing test was also offered at the time of interview for people aged seven years and over who did not have a cochlear implant. See Hearing data (appendix) for more information.

The hearing test indicated more than four in 10 (43%) people aged seven years and over had hearing loss in one or both ears at the time of interview. The proportion of people with measured hearing loss:
    • was about the same for males (43%) and females (42%)
    • was higher for people living in remote areas (59%) than non-remote areas (39%)
    • increased with age from 35 years and over, doubling from 41% of people aged 35–44 years to 82% of people aged 55 years and over.

More than two in 10 (23%) people had measured hearing loss in both ears.

Measured hearing loss at the time of interview does not necessarily indicate long-term hearing loss. For example, hearing loss on the day of the test may have been due to a temporary cause (like a cold) or limitations with the hearing test (such as being undertaken with background noise present rather than in a soundproof room). However, the difference between reported and measured hearing loss suggests a person may require further medical review for undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss.

Overall, almost eight in 10 (79%) people who had measured hearing loss did not report having long-term hearing loss. The proportion of people with measured hearing loss was:
    • more than three times higher than reported long-term hearing loss (43% compared with 12%)
    • higher than reported long-term hearing loss across all age groups
    • more than six times higher than reported long-term hearing loss for children aged 7–14 years (29% compared with 4.3%).


Hearing loss, by age

Graph shows proportion of people with measured hearing loss was higher than the proportion with reported long-term hearing loss for all age groups (7–14, 15–24, 25–34, 35–44, 45–54, and 55 years and over).
(a) Persons who reported hearing problems that have lasted, or are expected to last, for six months or more. (b) Persons with hearing loss in one or both ears based on results of voluntary, self-administered hearing test undertaken by respondents without a cochlear implant at the time of interview.

Source(s): 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey


Footnotes
1. Creative Spirits, 2019, <http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/health/ear-health-and-hearing-loss>; last accessed 14/11/2019.
2. Sourced from Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2012–13 (cat. no. 4727.0.55.001).