Evaluation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Australian Hearing, Hearing Screening Trial

Evaluation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Australian Hearing, Hearing Screening Trial Report

  • Author(s): Bishop, Lara, Gardiner, Fergus, Gale, Lauren
  • Published: 2019
  • Publisher: Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia

Abstract: Hearing loss affects some 3.6 million Australians and is predicted to more than double by 2060, in line with Australia’s ageing population(2). In 2017, hearing loss was estimated to affect one in seven people in Australia, including as many as three out of four people aged over 70 years(3). For every 10,000 live births, between nine and 12 children have a moderate or greater hearing loss in both ears. Another 23 children per 10,000 will acquire a hearing impairment by the age of 17 years— through accident, illness (e.g. otitis media), or other causes(4). People living outside major cities (15%) fare the worst, and are more likely to experience hearing disorders than people living in major cities (12%)(5). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians are also disproportionately impacted by poor ear health and hearing problems, compared to non-Indigenous Australians.The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) does not routinely conduct hearing screening in rural and remote Australia. However, the organisation is committed to identifying appropriate service models to inform the national deployment of a hearing screening program. To achieve this, the Queensland Section of the RFDS collaborated with Australian Hearing to develop an appropriate service model focused on conducting hearing assessments, raising hearing awareness and facilitating appropriate referrals, and to conduct a hearing screening trial. The trial was evaluated by the RFDS of Australia (Federation Company) and results are presented in the current report. A Community Hearing Worker (CHW) was recruited to provide hearing screening during the trial. The CHW employed a mixture of otoscopy, tympanometry, otoacoustic emissions testing, hearScreen and Sound Scouts to screen clients. The hearing screening service was paired with the RFDS Mobile Dental Unit (MDU) to take advantage of the current RFDS ‘footprint’ in rural and remote Queensland. By including the CHW on rotations (2-week trips to rural/remote Queensland towns) with the MDU, no additional infrastructure costs were incurred in delivering the hearing screening trial. The trial took advantage of the existing RFDS travel, management, brand, clinical governance and community engagement platforms. Based on results from all tests, 92 children (15.6% of all children) were identified as having hearing outside the normal range and 79 received a referral to at least one other service. Similarly, 81 adults (36.2% of all adults) were identified as having hearing outside the normal range and received a referral to at least one other service. Clients were mainly referred to Australian Hearing, primary health care or other services, such as ear nose and throat specialists.

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Suggested Citation
Bishop, Lara, Gardiner, Fergus, Gale, Lauren, 2019, Evaluation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Australian Hearing, Hearing Screening Trial, Report, viewed 17 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=15348.

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