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Listen `Ear - Edition 12
Young child holds tissue to nose space

Sacred Ground


Do you know what a eustachian tube is?  What about the pinna?

These are medical names for parts of the ear and if you find the words confusing and complicated, imagine what it would be like for a child, especially if you're trying to teach them to look after their binnungs (ears)!

"I try to explain to them (the students) about the body as an understanding of country, as an understanding of sacred sites," says Marianne Wobke, a health promotions officer at the Independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander School at Acacia Ridge, a southern suburb of Brisbane.

Marianne appeared as a guest on Let's Talk, a talkshow hosted by Tiga Bayles on 98.9FM, as part of a special outside broadcast for the National Indigenous Ear Health Campaign.  The campaign seeks to inform parents, carers and people working with infants and young children about Otitis Media, or middle ear infection.  Read more about Otitis Media here.

Marianne says she sees the impact of Otitis Media in the classroom all the time.

"Often you'll see it manifest as restless behaviour even sometimes bad or aggressive behaviour, " she told 98.9FM.

To prevent Otits Media, the school, working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Service, introduced tissues to encourage children to blow their nose.  

Marianne also recommends not sticking objects in the ear like a cotton bud and to not expose children to cigarette smoke.  For more tips click here

Listen here to Marianne explain the anatomy of the ear as an understanding of country.

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Mapping OM in Queensland

Mark Mitchell at 98.9fm

When it comes to preventing Otitis Media amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and young children, Mark Mitchell (pictured) is passionate about reducing their exposure to second-hand smoke.

Smoking around children increases the risk of Otitis Media or middle ear disease.  Untreated middle ear disease can cause hearing loss.

As a former smoker and registered nurse who cared for patients with emphysema, Mark knows the damage tobacco can have on one's health.  It's this knowledge that made him switch from a career in primary health care to health promotion and public health.

His current role is coordinating a Hearing Health project for the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council. The aim of the project is to map how Otitis Media is being treated by Queensland's Aboriginal and Islander medical services.

"It's an area where research needs to be done," Mark says.

The 'mapping exercise' will focus on 4 main areas of concern:

  • How are medical services resourced and trained to treat Otitis Media;
  • How are medical services treating Otitis Media, that is, are medical services following the national guidelines on the treatment of Otitis Media and have all medical services got access to Ear, Nose and Throat specialists;
  • How are medical services screening for Otitis Media; and
  • How can medical services prevent the recurring infections of Otitis Media?

While that exercise is underway, Mark urges parents and people caring or working with babies and young children to learn the signs and symptoms of Otitis Media. Untreated and chronic ear infections can cause hearing loss.

"The most significant thing about hearing loss is if you can't hear, you can't learn," he said. 

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Listen `Ear is funded under the National Indigenous Ear Health campaign, an Australian Government initiative.