Hear comes the Earbus
AS one of the largest providers of ear health services to children in the non-government sector, Earbus Foundation of WA has helped thousands of children across WA.
After treating 12,226 children last year through its Aboriginal Outreach and Newborn Hearing Screening programs, in 2020 Earbus will be developing a Perth program in the Midland-midvale and Fremantle areas.
In regional WA, rates of chronic ear disease recorded by Earbus Foundation have been as high as 15 per cent.
The World Health Organisation
(WHO) states that prevalence rates over 4 per cent are a serious public health issue requiring immediate attention.
The Earbus Outreach model takes teams of doctors, nurses, audiologists, ear nose and throat specialists and Aboriginal health workers into regional and remote communities to treat ear disease, working in schools, playgroups and daycares across the Kimberley, Goldfields, Pilbara and Esperance regions.
The challenge of ear disease in Aboriginal communities is the associated hearing loss which can start as early as two weeks of age.
On average, Aboriginal children are at risk of suffering from ear disease for 32 months out of the first five years of life, compared to three months for nonindigenous children.
Early childhood hearing loss can interfere with development of speech, language, sensory integration, balance, co-ordination and many other important developmental markers.
“Put simply, kids who can’t hear can’t learn,” Earbus chief executive and co-founder Paul Higginbotham said.
“Many Aboriginal children are set up for school failure in these early years because of this treatable and preventable condition.
“Our challenge is to restore their hearing so they can succeed in school and have the life opportunities they deserve.”
With support from Aboriginal Medical Services in Kununurra, Halls Creek, Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland and Bunbury, rates of chronic ear disease in all these regions have been brought down below the WHO benchmark.
Earbus Foundation also works alongside WA Country Health services to make sure children are treated according to agreed guidelines and protocols and can access surgery as needed.
The metro programs are funded through Impact 100WA and Impact 100Fremantle donations.
In 2016 Earbus Foundation was named Community Group of the Year in the WA Regional Achievement Awards, followed in 2017 by winning the AIM Pinnacle West Business Award for emerging business excellence.
In 2018 at the Telstra Business Awards, Earbus Foundation was the winner of the WA Social Change Maker category and a national finalist.
With support of donors, corporate sponsors and State and Federal government funding, Earbus Foundation will continue to grow in 2020 and assist more children and families in regional and metro WA.
Hearing Awareness Week runs from Sunday, March 1, to Saturday, March 7, with Hearing Awareness Day on Tuesday, March 3, aiming to highlight the issues faced by people with hearing loss.
To find out more and for events running during the week, visit deafnesscouncilwa.org.au.