Otitis media, or middle ear infection, is the main condition contributing to hearing loss among First Nations children. Middle ear infections are preventable and treatable. Chronic or recurring middle ear infections can affect young children’s hearing, which can have a big impact on their speech, language, thinking skills and social development.

Identifying and managing chronic and recurrent middle ear infections depend on children being checked when needed and referred to accessible services, but navigating the complex hearing health system can be difficult for families. Patients may fall out at critical points if there are difficulties or delays accessing or receiving care. For First Nations people, systemic barriers to accessing ear and hearing health services, such as limited availability and accessibility of culturally appropriate health services, can make it more difficult to navigate the already complex health system.

One key finding of this report is the high hearing testing rates among First Nations babies – greater than 90% in states with data reported. Another key finding is that Nations children with hearing devices first had their device fitted at a younger age, on average, than in 2008. Early fitting of hearing aids or cochlear implants is related to better speech and language development.

Ear and hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2023 presents detailed information about the hearing health of First Nations people and children. Data are available in the supplementary tables.