This report presents data on the hearing health services delivered under the National Partnership Agreement on Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory (SFNT) during 2012-13. Information is provided on the children who participated in this program, the services they received, and their ear and hearing health. Children who accessed SFNT hearing health services are not a random sample of children in the Northern Territory and, as such, the data do not provide a measure of population prevalence.

Key findings

Audiology services

  • During 2012-13, 1,807 audiology services were provided to 1,541 Indigenous children.
  • Seventy-two per cent of children who received audiology services were diagnosed with at least one type of middle ear condition. The most common condition was otitis media with effusion (OME) (25% of children), followed by eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD) (17%), chronic suppurative otitis media (CSOM) (13%), dry perforation (12%) and acute otitis media (AOM) (8%).
  • Fifty-one per cent of children who received audiology services had some form of hearing loss. Thirty-six per cent had bilateral hearing loss and 15% had loss in one ear. Around 10% had moderate, severe or profound hearing impairment.
  • When children in the SFNT program were linked with children who received audiology services under the Child Health Check Initiative/Closing the Gap (CHCI[CtG]) program, the proportion with at least one type of middle ear condition decreased from 86% at last CHCI(CtG) service to 73% at last SFNT service; and the proportion with hearing loss decreased from 75% to 60%. Sixty-four per cent of children experienced an improvement in hearing between their last CHCI(CtG) service and last SFNT service, 28% experienced no change and 8% experienced a deterioration.
  • Long-term improvements in children's ear health were also evident. Of children who received 3 or more services over the course of both programs (August 2007 to June 2013), the proportion with at least one type of OM (OME, CSOM, AOM or dry perforation) decreased from 84% at first service to 54% at last service. The proportion with hearing loss declined from 85% to 64% and the proportion with moderate, severe or profound hearing impairment decreased from 23% to 8%.

CHHC program

  • The Child Hearing Health Coordinator (CHHC) initiative is a new program under SFNT and is in the early stages of implementation. During 2012-13, a total of 174 Indigenous children presented for 181 visits. Almost all had at least one type of middle ear condition (96%) at the first visit, with the most common conditions being OME (41%), AOM (29%) and CSOM (23%).
  • CHHCs provided a range of clinical services including ear health education (provided in 96% of visits), verification of diagnosis (83%), discussion of hearing loss strategies (79%), support for audiological management (78%) and confirmation of regular follow-up and care plan (77%). They also facilitated contact with other service providers including health providers (49% of visits), education providers (39%) and Australian Hearing (10%).