The Morrison Government is providing $30 million over four years to protect the hearing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children through its comprehensive Hearing Assessment Program.

“Poor hearing has profound effects on a child’s ability to learn from and interact with others and can leave them isolated, disengaged and facing challenges at home,” said Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt.

“Our Indigenous children have much higher rates of hearing loss than other Australian children, largely due to complications from middle ear infection, otitis media.

“Children with undiagnosed hearing loss tend to fall behind in school due to delayed speech and language development, which can have a devastating effect on their future employment opportunities and their chance of living happy, successful lives.”

The program will provide ear health checks and diagnostic hearing assessments, as well as follow-up treatment for children in the years before they start school so that they are able to hear in the classroom.

Minister Wyatt said that he has asked the Department of Health to work with Australian Hearing to develop delivery arrangements for the diagnostic hearing services.

Consultation with stakeholders during co-design for the program has identified Australian Hearing as the organisation best placed to provide the scale and quality of diagnostic audiology services required for this important program.

“Involving Australian Hearing in the program will streamline hearing service delivery for children and their families by providing timely fitting of hearing devices for those children who need them,” said Minister Wyatt.

“At the same time, other Morrison Government funded ear health campaigns will be strengthened to support the Hearing Assessment Program by providing follow-up specialist and allied health services.”

The Minister said that in some areas, primary health workers needed more training and experience in providing ear and hearing assessments, especially for very young children.

“As part of their duties, Australian Hearing audiologists working with the new program will provide on the job training to health workers employed in primary care clinics,” Minister Wyatt said.

“Over time, this will build health workers’ skills and help embed ear health checks in everyday health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”

In addition, the Morrison Government is providing up to $200,000 in funding in 2018-19 to train health professionals in delivering tympanometry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The Hearing Assessment Program will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to grow up with good hearing and the advantages this brings.

The program will be targeted at rural and remote communities.

This new investment brings Morrison Government funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ear and hearing health activities to over $95 million (2018-19 to 2021-22).

Thanks to our Government’s strong economic management, $160 million has also been committed to the Indigenous Health Research Fund which includes a commitment to end avoidable deafness.