Crucial service: Earbus reaches far and wide in Western Australia

Earbus Foundation of WA works with regional, remote (and now metropolitan) communities across Western Australia to treat and reduce the high rates of ear disease and hearing loss in Aboriginal babies and children.

Earbus features local Aboriginal schoolchildren’s art designs.

Aboriginal children have the highest rates of ear disease in the world, despite mainstream Australia having some of the lowest rates of infection. Thus our problem is the worst and our gap is the widest.

The Earbus Outreach Program covers huge areas of Australia’s largest state, ranging from Wyndham on the Cambridge Gulf in the Kimberley to Esperance on the Southern Ocean in the state’s south-east. In 2019 the Earbus program was delivered on 70 sites but continuing growth will see that rise to 120 locations in 2020. It covers an area equivalent to the size of Western Europe. The numbers behind this complex and challenging service delivery model are remarkable.

In 2019 the Earbus Team performed 10,317 ear screens (Otoscopy and tympanometry) on 3966 Aboriginal children across the Pilbara, Goldfields, Kimberley, SW and South-East regions of the state. The purpose of screening is to triage children so services can be targeted at children with the highest needs.

Earbus Foundation now employs 6 full-time paediatric audiologists; diagnostic audiology in 2019 saw 4585 hearing tests performed. This averages out to around 120 hearing tests per week as Earbus trips are only conducted during school terms in order to reach the maximum number of children.

Ear disease is a primary health condition that needs to be assertively managed by doctors and nurse practitioners, and in 2019 Earbus clinicians working in the Outreach Program provided 3,468 primary care consults.

Earbus ENT Anton checking ears in the Pilbara.

Because many of the Earbus trips are funded as Fly-In Fly Out (FIFO) visits Earbus works in close collaboration with Aboriginal Medical Services across these regions to ensure continuity of care between visits. It has long-standing and essential partnerships with Wirraka Maya, SWAMS, Bega Garnbirringu and more recent collaborations with YY and OVAHS in the Kimberley.

Earbus also collaborates with Starlight Foundation and Starlight Captains accompany the team on many regional visits.

In total, the Earbus Outreach Program in 2019 delivered over 22,750 occasions of care to Aboriginal children in regional and remote WA.

Earbus Foundation also delivers the Newborn Hearing Screening Program in WA’s private hospital sector under contract on behalf of the WA Health Department.

In 2019, across all its programs, Earbus Foundation saw 12,166 children with an average cost of services per child of $230 per year.

You can find more about its people and its work at