Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation




Salt Water Solution for Kids Hearing
Born To Hear  



Salt Water Solution for Kids Hearing
First Published: Enews - May 2010


A Flinders team hope to prove something as simple as swimming in salt water chlorinated pools can reduce the alarming number of middle ear infections in children in remote Indigenous communities.

Supported by a $662,000 Federal Department of Health and Ageing grant, five staff and eight students from Flinders travel to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands of northern South Australia and to the western Yalata community twice per year to assesses children for middle ear disease and related hearing loss.
The study is based on research led by audiologist Associate Professor Linnett Sanchez and ear, nose and throat surgeon Associate Professor Simon Carney which has shown about 70 per cent of school-age children living in Anangu communities in South Australia fail a screening hearing test.

30 per cent of these children have eardrum perforations (when injury to the ear or fluid accumulation from infection causes the thin membrane of the ear drum to rupture) compared to about 1 per cent of children living in Adelaide. 

"We are seeing in Indigenous children persistent, significant hearing loss right through their educational years," Associate Professor Sanchez said.  "This hearing loss can impact on children‘s education and social development, with serious consequences throughout life."

Last year the team tested 702 indigenous children from four communities which have swimming pools and seven which do not.  Data are collected in autumn (at the end of the swimming season) and again in spring to examine whether there has been an effect on infections during the time the children have been unable to swim.

The large-scale study over three years hopes to replicate the positive findings of a small scale study by a Western Australian research team. The Flinders team believe any benefits established by the trial may be attributed to the combination of the irrigatory effect of the saline and the chemical effect of chlorination.

If findings show a benefit from swimming, it is expected that more remote communities will be able to better argue for government funding to install salt water pools.


Born To Hear
First Published: Investigator - September 2003


Nurses and doctors at Flinders are now able to detect hearing impairments in all newborns following the recent launch of the Variety Newborn Hearing Screening Program.


In South Australia approximately 25 infants per year are profoundly deaf and require either a hearing aid or cochlear implant to enable acquisition of speech and most infants remain undiagnosed until 18-24 months of age.


The new screening program tests newborns with a handheld Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) device. The non-invasive test is performed while the baby is asleep and around eight percent of healthy babies are expected to fail this test. However, approximately half of these babies will respond to a repeat test.


Babies who have not responded to initial testing and infants at a high risk of congenital deafness will undergo further testing using an Auditory Brainstem Evoked Response (ABR) machine. This detects and diagnoses problems in the inner ear and the hearing nerve responsible for transmission of information to the brain.


"Hearing impairments should be diagnosed and treated by the age of 6 months if the child is to develop normal speech. This new technology is the only way in which serious hearing impediments can be detected in time for early intervention" says Associate Professor Peter Marshall, Director of the Flinders Medical Centre’s Division of Women and Children,


Approximately 3,000 babies are born each year at Flinders.


The $80,000 screening program is possible thanks to funding for equipment from Variety the Children’s Charity, The Department of Human Services, The Australian Hotels Association SA, FMC Foundation Precious Possums, FMC Audiology and Flinders University Speech Pathology and Audiology.

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