This report presents information on ear and hearing health outreach services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the Northern Territory. The Australian Government funded these programs and the Northern Territory Government delivered them.
- In 2015-16, 2,253 outreach audiology services were provided to 1,981 children and young people; and 1,011 ear, nose and throat (ENT) teleotology services were provided to 936 children and young people.
- Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) conducted 1,211 visits to 1,125 children in 2015-16. This was an increase from 2014-15 when 668 CNS visits were provided to 622 children.
- From July 2012 to June 2016, 9,221 outreach audiology services were provided to 5,357 children and young people, 3,799 ENT teleotology services were provided to 2,434 children and young people, and CNS conducted 3,087 visits to 2,614 children.
Improvement in hearing health status
- The levels of hearing loss and impairment have improved slightly over the last 4 years. In 2015-16, 49% of Indigenous children had some type of hearing loss (compared with 52% in 2012-13) and 32% had a hearing impairment (compared with 37% in 2012-13).
- Between July 2012 and June 2016, hearing improved for a large proportion of children and young people who received 2 or more audiology services. Almost half (48%) of the children who had hearing loss at their first service showed improvement in hearing at their last service.
- More than half (59%) of children and young people had a reduction in the degree of their hearing impairment between July 2012 and June 2016.
Improvement in hearing health and ear conditions
- From July 2012 to June 2016, the proportion of children and young people with at least one middle ear condition decreased from 82% to 75% between their first and last service.
- Greater decreases were observed over the longer term. From August 2007 to June 2016, the proportion diagnosed with any ear condition decreased from 78% to 49% between their first and last service.
High demand on hearing and ear health services
A large number of hearing and ear health services have been provided, but there is much work yet to do. As at 30 June 2016, 3,090 children and young people were waiting for audiology services, and 1,841 for ENT teleotology services. While ensuring children most in need received services (through the priority listing system), a number of changes have been made to improve the overall efficiency of hearing health services, including enhancing CNS services, health promotion and education activities. However, the high demand on hearing and ear health services continues to be driven by the high prevalence of middle ear conditions among children and the chronic nature of the disease, which means the majority of children require repeated and long-term follow-up services.