Ear disease (otitis media) is a common childhood disease and is the leading cause of preventable hearing loss in children. For Aboriginal children living in remote communities, it is a public health crisis. The prevalence of ear disease among Aboriginal children living in remote communities in the Northern Territory is among the highest in the world - 90% of children have a history of otitis media.
Otitis media tends to affect Aboriginal children early in life, is often persistent, asymptomatic and diagnosed later in childhood. If left untreated, or treated inadequately, otitis media often results in conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss delays children's language and speech development and makes learning extremely difficult. In fact, many children with hearing loss become disengaged in school which results in poor attendance and increased risk of coming in contact with the criminal justice system.
A recently published research article 'Health and Justice: The link between hearing impairment in early childhood and youth offending in Aboriginal children living in remote communities of the Northern Territory, Australia' has used multiple linked datasets from Government agencies to examine the association between hearing impairment and youth offending among Aboriginal children for the first time.
The study confirms that Aboriginal children with hearing impairment struggle to attend school, are at increased risk of child maltreatment and boys with hearing problems are at higher risk of youth offending.
Thankfully, the study also confirms that increased school attendance in Year 7 leads to lower risk of offending, particularly among the boys. This finding highlights the importance of increasing and maintaining school engagement in the middle years. This is of critical importance for children with hearing problems.
Find out more by reading the full article.