The Dragonfly Story


The purpose of this section is to:

  • Define otitis media (CHL / OM)
  • Highlight the current research findings on the incidence of CHL / OM in indigenous and non-indigenous children
  • Introduce the main areas of impact of CHL / OM on a child’s early social, emotional and educational development
  • Demonstrate the need for a community approach to CHL / OM
  • Highlight the need to provide children experiencing CHL / OM with the support they need

Otitis media is more commonly known as middle ear infection. While CHL / OM may also be experienced by adults, it’s more common in younger children because immune systems are not as well developed. Research has shown that CHL / OM can seriously reduce a young child’s ability to hear clearly from as young as a few days old to their teenage years and beyond. This production in a child’s hearing ability is more commonly known as conductive hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss may impact on a child’s social, emotional, physical and educational development. Research has found that the occurrence of CHL / OM is considerably higher in Indigenous children than non Indigenous children. While its difficult to identify all of the factors which contribute to a higher incident rate in Indigenous children, it is suggested under-nutrition, crowded living conditions, lack of medical attention and the exposure to passive smoking may contribute to a higher incidence rate in Indigenous children.

Research in the United States have shown that non Indigenous children who attend child care centres are up to 5 times more at risk of experiencing repetitive CHL / OM, while the impact of CHL / OM is now more readily recognised, it may still go undetected. As a consequence all care givers who work with children must be aware of how to recognise CHL / OM and the types of intervention strategies which can be employed, CHL / OM due to otitis media will not be resolved by medical intervention alone, it requires a community approach including:

  • audiologists;
  • schools;
  • families;
  • health workers;
  • medical workers, and
  • speech pathologists.

The potential of CHL / OM is still going undetected may be due to a number of reasons:

  • difficultly in recognising the signs and symptoms of CHL / OM;
  • limited access to support personnel;
  • limited testing and treatment for children with OM, particularly in rural and remote areas, and
  • coping strategies develop by the child which may mask the difficulties they are having.