Hearing for Learning Initiative

The Hearing for Learning Initiative is a ground-breaking 5-year partnership combining public and private funding to solve the serious ear health and education crisis in the Northern Territory.

Indigenous ear health remains at crisis point in remote Australia, with the heaviest burden in the Northern Territory. For the several thousand NT children and young people on waiting lists for audiology and surgical assessment, and the thousands more aged under five with undiagnosed ear disease, there is a very high risk of profound disadvantage in health, education and employment outcomes. Untreated ear disease sets children up for a lifetime of disadvantage. 90% of Aboriginal children under the age of 3 in the Northern Territory have ear disease and most of them will have permanent hearing loss for life – this is an issue that has to be addressed.

The Hearing for Learning Initiative is a ground-breaking 5-year partnership combining public and private funding to solve this serious health and education problem – $2.4 million from NT Government; $2.5 million from The Balnaves Foundation; and $3 million from the Federal Government.

The initiative is an innovative project founded on research by Menzies School of Health Research, focused on employment and training of community members to assist the diagnosis and treatment of ear disease and hearing problems.

The Initiative will implement an innovative community-based approach, which will reach 5,000 children aged 0 – 16 years old over 4 years, across 20 sites in urban, rural and remote areas of the Northern Territory.

The initiative will increase access to regular community-based early detection and treatment, which will reduce the prevalence of chronic ear disease and hearing loss, enabling the fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) medical specialists to focus on the most serious cases.

While a FIFO model of care is part of the solution, the current model is overstretched and expensive, and inadequate without the support of a robust, community-based initiative at a local level. If the current approach remains, the shocking levels of hearing loss and disadvantage in our Indigenous children will persist.

The initiative aims to determine the best method to solve the ear disease crisis and produce a model that can be rolled out throughout the Northern Territory.

The initiative is co-led by Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon – ear, nose and throat specialist Dr Kelvin Kong, and Professor Amanda Leach, Leader of the Ear Health Research Program, Menzies School of Health Research.

Related News & Media

‘Glue ear’ project to fight hearing loss and improve outcomes for Aboriginal children, ABC News, 15 August 2018 here. 
Worimi Man Associate Professor Kelvin Kong Takes Menzies Medallion, News of the Area, 05 January 2021 here

Find more information on the Hearing for Learning Initiative here.