Investing Generational Change – Hearing for Learning Initiative

Up to nine in every ten Aboriginal children, under the age of three, in the Northern Territory, suffer from otitis media, or “glue ear”, in one or both ears, which can lead to hearing impairment and/or loss.  Researchers have long observed the negative impacts of this disease on children’s education, childhood development and social outcomes, due to late detection. 

The Hearing for Learning is a ground-breaking initiative, to be delivered by Menzies, to increase early detection of otitis media, by training local community members to support on ground health and education services.  This will decrease the need for fly-in-fly out specialists, reduce the treatment waiting period and create employment opportunities for up to 40 community-based workers. 

Amanda Leach from Menzies School of Health Research will lead the project with Dr Kelvin Kong, renowned ear, nose and throat surgeon.  

“We think this program will provide a culturally safe and appropriate long-term service every day,” Professor Leach said. 

The $7.9 million five program is jointly funded by the Northern Territory and Federal Governments and the Balnaves Foundation. 

“When we learned about the chronic nature of ear disease in children living in remote communities in the Northern Territory, we could not ignore the fact that this likely leads to profound disadvantage in health, education and employment outcomes,' says Neil Balnaves AO, Founder, The Balnaves Foundation and Chancellor, Charles Darwin University.

"Philanthropy plays a unique role in recognising and piloting new approaches; however, it requires partnership with government to deliver these approaches at scale."

The initiative is expected to reach 5,000 children with a focus on children under 3 as prompt diagnosis and optimal treatment in the first 1,000 days of a child’s can vastly impact learning outcomes.

The project will commence in 2019 in four remote communities but is expected to be rolled out in up to 20 communities across the Northern Territory.