One young boy stands out in Lara Shur’s memory.
“He was totally out of control at school – practically climbing the walls,” she says.
Then the Earbus visited his school.
“They discovered the real problem, which was that he couldn’t hear,” Lara says. “He had the treatment he needed and right off the bat he was top of his science class.”
Lara is Director of Clinical Services and a co-founder of the Earbus Foundation – a Western Australia-based charity working to reduce the incidence of middle ear disease in Aboriginal and at-risk children. She and the other Earbus specialists have seen many, many examples of children misdiagnosed as naughty or not paying attention when they’re actually struggling to hear.
“If you can’t hear you can’t learn in a normal schoolroom environment,” says Paul Higginbottom, CEO and co-founder of the Earbus Foundation. “That’s bound to lead to downstream issues such as poor retention rates at school, welfare dependency and underemployment. Hearing loss may not be life-threatening but it can certainly ruin your life.”
Good news about prevention
As many as 75 percent of children enrolled in some urban schools can’t hear properly. And, in some regional and remote schools, the figure is close to 100 percent. The good news is that it’s possible to prevent the hearing loss that stops so many children from reaching their full potential.
“I’ve been at this school for four years now and there’s been an amazing change since Earbus began to visit,” says Julie Rose, Deputy Principal of South Hedland Primary School. “They not only recognise and treat the problems they also let us know what we can do to help.”
A dedicated team
Paul jokes that, after launching in 2013, they were ‘Earbusless’ Foundation for some time.
“We did hearing tests under trees, in libraries – anywhere we could set up – but you really need better conditions than that,” Paul continues. “The Bus gave us the capacity to do reliable, high-quality audiology in a clean and hygienic environment.”
Even now, the work isn’t for everyone. It can take three or four hours to drive to some communities, often in relentless 46-degree heat. And even as COVID-19 is creating so many other serious healthcare issues, Earbus is finding ways to continue its work within government safety guidelines.
“Our $40,000 Sunsuper Dreams for a Better World grants will help us to build a for-purpose mobile clinic, including screening and audiological equipment, for our Pilbara Outreach Program,” says Paul. “This will help us to service daycare and child parent centres as well as schools.”
Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World program partners with grassroots community groups, not-for-profit organisations and small businesses to help them dream big and do good.
“We’re very proud to be helping organisations like Earbus make a difference in Australian communities,” says CEO Bernard Reilly. “Our Dreams for a Better World program is an ongoing commitment from us and we’re looking forward to receiving applications for a share of the $150,000 in grants we’ll award later this year.”
For more information or to apply, visit Sunsuper’s Dreams for a Better World.