Hear comes the Ear­bus

Canning Gazette - - DEAFNESS COUNCIL -

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.

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