Abstract: Research into strategies for reducing the prevalence of middle ear disease (otitis media) and related hearing loss in Indigenous children is vitally important because of the extraordinarily high prevalence of otitis media and disabling levels of hearing loss experienced by young Indigenous Australians in remote areas. In 2008 the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing provided funding for Flinders University and its collaborating partner, the Anangu Education Service of the SA Dept. of Education and Child Development, to investigate whether the use of swimming pools (SP) by school-age Indigenous children in remote communities results in the reduction and possible prevention of conductive hearing loss related to otitis media in these children. The studywas triggered by the much publicised findings of Western Australian researchers that the provision of swimming pools in two Indigenous communities in remote semi-arid Western Australia significantly reduced skin and some ear disease in children. The claims of the WA study appeared to be good news in the bleak area of chronic infections in Indigenous children. However the limitations of the WA study, principally the absence of control communities, small participation numbers and short duration, signalled the need for further investigation of the results. Flinders University audiology and medical staff were well placed to address this problem on a larger scale. Six years of prior work on the ear health and hearing of Anangu school-age children in 9 communities on the remote APY Lands of north-western SA and in Yalata community in the far west of SA showed appallingly high levels of hearing loss and perforation of the eardrum caused by otitis media. The Flinders University work was the catalyst for educational measures which were put in place to support the hearing needs of many of the Anangu students. However, primary health care and public health strategies targeting middle ear disease remain limited. By 2007 there were 4 new, Commonwealth funded, saltwater chlorinated swimming pools, 3 on the APY Lands and 1 in Yalata. These provided an opportunity for the more definitive study, described here, of the benefits of swimming pools for hearing and ear health. The Swimming Pool project has had large participant numbers, communities without swimming pools as control communities for direct comparison and a longitudinal time frame of 3 years.
Linnett Sanchez, Simon Carney, Adrian Estermann, Karen Sparrow, David Turner, 2012, An evaluation of the benefits of swimming pools for the hearing and ear health of young Indigenous Australians: A whole of population study across multiple remote Indigenous communities, Report, viewed 11 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=2896.