to be done to prevent and treat otitis media (otherwise known as middle ear
inflammation), which is a major health problem in Indigenous communities and
can lead to permanent hearing loss, according to the editor of a supplement on
the condition published in the 2 November issue of the Medical Journal of
three to five Australian children die from complications related to otitis
media and another 15 suffer permanent hearing loss.
Australian children account for the highest prevalence of chronic suppurative
otitis media in the world (70 per cent in some remote communities). The World
Health Organization regards a prevalence of chronic suppurative otitis media of
over four per cent in a defined population of children as a massive public
health problem requiring urgent attention," Professor Harvey Coates, Clinical
Professor at the University of Western Australia and Senior Ear, Nose and
Throat Surgeon at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth said.
media affects up to 80 per cent of Australian children by the age of three
years, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely to
experience recurrent disease at an earlier age - 73 per cent of Indigenous
children will experience otitis media before the age of 12 months.
"The end result
of various forms of otitis media, when they are not adequately treated, is
significant conductive hearing loss with a resultant speech and language delay,
especially where English is a child's second or third language. This results in
educational problems, social isolation, truancy, and ultimately to early school
leaving and difficulties gaining employment.
necessary programs to implement changes in the fundamental and underlying
causes of otitis media, especially in Indigenous communities, are not being
"Chronic suppurative otitis media is a disease
of poverty, and without actions to lessen overcrowding and provide appropriate
housing and water supply, education of parents, and adequate access to medical
care, progress to improvement will be slow."