The impact of hearing impairment on Aboriginal children’s school attendance in remote Northern Territory: a data linkage study

Jiunn Yih Su, Vincent Yaofeng He, Steven Guthridge, Damien Howard, Amanda Leach, Sven Silburn

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    Abstract

    Objective: To investigate the association between hearing impairment (HI) and Year 1 school attendance in Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia.

    Methods: Observational cohort study (n=3,744) by analysing linked individual‐level information for Aboriginal children from the NT Government school attendance records, NT Perinatal Register and Remote Hearing Assessment dataset, and community level data for relative remoteness, socioeconomic disadvantage and housing crowdedness.

    Results: Children with unilateral hearing loss, mild HI and moderate or worse HI had significantly lower Year 1 attendance than those with normal hearing, attending 5.6 (95%CI, −9.10 ∼−2.10), 4.0 (95%CI, −7.17 ∼−0.90) and 6.1 (95%CI, −10.71 ∼−1.49) days fewer, respectively. Other variables that yielded significant association were: male gender, having attended preschool less than 20% of available days, speaking English as second language, twin birth and average household size >5.

    Conclusions: Aboriginal children with any level of HI are likely to have lower school attendance rates in Year 1 than their peers with normal hearing.

    Implications for public health: In this population, where the prevalence of otitis media and accompanying HI remains extremely high, the early detection and management of hearing loss on entry into primary school should be included in the measures to improve school attendance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)544-550
    Number of pages7
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
    Volume43
    Issue number6
    Early online date30 Oct 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

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