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Health conditions

Ear health

Hearing loss is a serious disability that, especially in childhood, can lead to linguistic, social and learning difficulties, and behavioural problems. There can be many reasons for hearing loss including complications at birth, infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, use of certain medicines, injuries and accidents, exposure to loud noise, ageing and genetic causes. Otitis media (inflammation and infection of the middle ear) is a significant cause of hearing loss in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

In 2018–19, among Indigenous Australians (based on self-reported data):

  • 14% had ear or hearing problems (111,700 people)
  • 10% had complete or partial deafness (83,400 people)
  • 1% had otitis media (10,300 people) (Figure HC 24).
Otitis media is a common childhood disease, the recurrence of which can lead to hearing loss, deafness and further complications such as learning difficulties.

In 2018–19, the proportion of Indigenous Australians with ear or hearing problems increased with age, ranging from 7% of Indigenous children aged 0–14 to 34% of those aged 55 and over (Figure HC 25).


For the first time, the 2018–19 NATSIHS included a hearing test, with aims to provide a national picture on hearing loss in Indigenous Australians.

In 2018–19 among Indigenous Australians aged 7 and over who had a hearing test:

  • 43% had hearing loss in one or both ears
  • Hearing loss increased with age—from 29% for 7–14 years to 82% for 55 years and over (Figure HC 26).

The majority (79%) of Indigenous Australians with measured hearing loss did not self-report a long-term hearing problem.