Results from a new hearing test have revealed that, at the time of testing in 2018–19, more than four in 10 (43 per cent) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged seven years and over had hearing loss in one or both ears.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia participated in the voluntary hearing test as part of the 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.
At the time of testing, the proportion of people with hearing loss was about the same for males (43 per cent) and females (42 per cent), but higher for people living in remote areas (59 per cent) than non-remote areas (39 per cent).
Almost three in 10 (29 per cent) children aged 7–14 years had hearing loss in one or both ears, while more than two in 10 (23 per cent) people aged seven years and over had hearing loss in both ears.
ABS Indigenous and Social Information Program Manager, Stephen Collett said: “Hearing loss measured on the day of testing does not necessarily mean a person has experienced 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.
“We found that almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) people whose test results indicated hearing loss did not report having long-term hearing loss. This suggests that some people might require further medical review for undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss.”
Dr Scott Avery from Western Sydney University, who is working with the ABS to analyse the data, said the data will be a valuable asset in understanding the extent of undiagnosed hearing impairment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“The rate at which hearing impairment occurs is higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and, if it isn’t picked up early and managed, it can have a direct impact on their education and employment opportunities. This new data will help target programs for better hearing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into areas where they are most needed.”
Further information is available in National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (cat. no. 4715.0).
- Long-term hearing loss refers to hearing loss reported by a person that has lasted, or is expected to last, more than six months.
- The survey collected data on a range of health conditions, risk factors and use of health services as well as data on language, cultural identification, education, labour force status, income and discrimination – for full details see Survey topics (appendix).
- When reporting ABS data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or ABS) must be attributed as the source.
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