Strong Ears, Strong Futures - Healthy hearing starts at home

Page last updated: 16 June 2015

Mother reading the Care for Kids Ears resource to her son.

Being a mother of five children all under the age of 12, Kobi McKenzie-Ingrey is no stranger to looking after sick kids. As it is for most mums and dads, watching out for colds and coughs, and making regular trips to the doctor for treatment and check-ups is all part of the regular routine of raising a family. However, after reading the Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign resources for parents, Kobi admits that she was alarmed at how much information concerning the potentially serious health condition of Otitis Media she wasn't aware of.

“I've got all these children and really, I didn't realise how important it was until I read the resources,” says Kobi.

“At the health centre there’s always a lot of adult related information, or information for tiny babies, but I haven't noticed a lot on hearing specifically. So for me, having that information made me realise how important ear health really is. I should have picked up on it a long time ago.”

This realisation motivated Kobi to become an ambassador for the Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign, which has been developed by the Australian Government to increase awareness of ear disease and hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

While Otitis Media (also known as ‘ear disease’ and ‘middle ear infection’) is a common disease in children, the prevalence, recurrence and degree of infection recorded in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is significantly higher than in non-Indigenous Australians.

Left untreated, ear infections can lead to hearing loss which may limit a child’s capacity to develop socially and emotionally. Otitis Media can also adversely affect educational outcomes.

The Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign has produced a range of materials to both inform and assist parents when it comes to keeping their children’s ears healthy. These tools include activity books, memory cards and colouring in sheets. There is also a variety of easy to understand information that ranges from how to spot and treat ear infections, to useful tips on encouraging kids to clean their ears and blow their nose, vaccinations and eating healthy foods.

“I think the resources for parents are great, and it’s made me more conscious, because at the end of the day I have five kids and sometimes you forget the basic things to check for,” says Kobi.

“I think a lot of parents are busy and it’s not that you don't have time to check those sort of things, but you just don't look for those signs because you don't associate the ear with a runny nose that often, you think it’s just a cold.”

“My daughter has an ear infection right now, and previously, I wouldn't have thought to look for the different signs of ear infection. Now that I know, I looked for the signs the other day and I could see that she was scratching around her ear, so I’ve picked it up straight away and she’s started on antibiotics.”

The Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign is part of the Australian Government’s commitment to improving eye and ear health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for better education and employment outcomes.

The Care for Kids’ Ears resources for Parents and Carers, Early Childhood & Community Groups, Teachers and Health Professionals can be downloaded or ordered from the Care for Kids’ Ears’ website.