Salt Water Solution for Kids Hearing
First Published: Enews - May 2010
A Flinders team hope to prove something as simple as swimming in salt water chlorinated pools can reduce the alarming number of middle ear infections in children in remote Indigenous communities.
Supported by a $662,000 Federal Department of Health and Ageing grant, five staff and eight students from Flinders travel to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of northern South Australia and to the western Yalata community twice per year to assesses children for middle ear disease and related hearing loss.
The study is based on research led by audiologist Associate Professor Linnett Sanchez and ear, nose and throat surgeon Associate Professor Simon Carney which has shown about 70 per cent of school-age children living in Anangu communities in South Australia fail a screening hearing test.
30 per cent of these children have eardrum perforations (when injury to the ear or fluid accumulation from infection causes the thin membrane of the ear drum to rupture) compared to about 1 per cent of children living in Adelaide.
"We are seeing in Indigenous children persistent, significant hearing loss right through their educational years," Associate Professor Sanchez said. "This hearing loss can impact on children‘s education and social development, with serious consequences throughout life."
Last year the team tested 702 indigenous children from four communities which have swimming pools and seven which do not. Data are collected in autumn (at the end of the swimming season) and again in spring to examine whether there has been an effect on infections during the time the children have been unable to swim.
The large-scale study over three years hopes to replicate the positive findings of a small scale study by a Western Australian research team. The Flinders team believe any benefits established by the trial may be attributed to the combination of the irrigatory effect of the saline and the chemical effect of chlorination.
If findings show a benefit from swimming, it is expected that more remote communities will be able to better argue for government funding to install salt water pools.