Author: Jane Harris – Educator Support Officer

Date: 12 May 2020

The Earbus Foundation of WA aims at eradicating impacts of hearing loss in young children. The main focus is on Aboriginal children in remote communities, though funding this has been extended to children in the local communities. Implications of hearing loss can also lead on to other conditions, for example it can affect speech, social interactions and balance. Therefore, when a child starts school they are already behind.

The Earbus Foundation, along with The Smith Family and Connecting Communities for Kids, has recently received funding for equipment such as Otoscope to examine the inner ear and Tympanometer to check pressure in the ear. Other agencies in the community also conduct ear health screenings, some of these include Bight Futures Children’s Services, Good Start Early Learning Centres and Babbingur Mia. This initiative is aimed at local Aboriginal families in the Kwinana/Rockingham areas as well as our Bright Futures’ educators.

Some staff at Bright Futures and other local agencies, all of whom are connected to child care or children’s health in the local and surrounding areas, undertook training conducted by the Earbus Foundation of WA in August 2019 to administer the tests.

When we undertake the testing we do this as part of playgroup, where the children are familiar with their surroundings and Fran and myself in our normal roles. This also includes Moordtij Kulungar playgroup. After the testing days, we enter data into a spreadsheet which gets checked by the Earbus Foundation. In future, we will be offering to provide this service in the educator’s Family Day Care environment who are not able to make it to playgroup.

Before we have our screening, educators are encouraged to program ear health in their programs. This in turn made our job easier as the children have an understanding of what will happen when they get ears screened. During the screening we involve the children, getting them to turn on the Tympanometer and looking for the “peak” at the end of the screen. Time taken to undertake testing is about 15 – 20 minutes each child.

So far the initiative has been successful, having completed ear screenings throughout late 2019 and early 2020. We have also had follow up with those children needing a second screening or being referred to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist. When talking to educators or parents about results of the test, if there has been any need for further investigation, usually there has been a pattern of either some form of speech delay or pronunciation of words or behaviour patterns already known to educators or parents. You can read more about this impact here. Interestingly, The Earbus Foundation has also just announced a 4-year partnership with Griffin University in Queensland to create the Harvey Coates Research Scholarship aimed at developing a vaccine to prevent middle ear infections in Australian Indigenous children.

The work that the Earbus Foundation of WA and participating agencies is conducting is extremely important and can only be described as imperative for children’s ear health and long term language development. Bright Futures Children’s Services is proud to be associated with this initiative. If you feel your child’s speech is not developing or they are not hearing as well as they should, please contact the Earbus Foundation of WA for more information about an ear screening facility near you. Do you have a child enrolled with us and would like them to be screened? Call Bright Futures Children’s Services today to find out how.