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New tools help early detection of hearing loss in Indigenous children

Samantha Harkus - Principal Audiologist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services at Hearing Australia. Source: Supplied

“The PLUM and HATS tools will help build awareness and empower parents and carers to talk about their bub’s listening and communication skills. As part of standard care for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, these tools could help make a difference to the lives and futures of many children.” – Sam Harkus.

Key points

  • The PLUM (Parent-evaluated Listening and Understanding Measure) assessment includes 10 questions that screen listening skills

  • The HATS (Hearing and Talking Scale) assessment includes 5 questions that screen communication skills

  • These assessments can be conducted in 10-15 minutes as either part of an annual health check or when there are concerns about ongoing ear trouble


Research indicates that almost half of childhood hearing loss is preventable, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experiencing significantly higher rates of hearing loss than non-Indigenous Australian children.

But Hearing Australia, in collaboration with Aboriginal health and early education services, has recently developed tool-kits to help diagnose hearing loss in children before it becomes a permanent problem.

Sam Harkus, Principal Audiologist, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services at Hearing Australia explained to NITV Radio that the tool-kits are for early childhood workers and primary health workers. 

They make use of parents’ and carers’ observations of their children in everyday situations that can be reported so that hearing and talking problems in infants and young children can be detected early on. 

The kits' components consist of the PLUM (a parents' checklist to assess listening skills) and the HATS (a list of questions to asses talking skills).

“We are particularly happy about the PLUM, the listening skills checklist. We developed it with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services’ early childhood services,” Sam Harkus said.

“It is new to the world, there is nothing like it. It really helps us workout which children need a hearing referral super early; much, much earlier than we would have reliably been able to do in the past.”

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