A research project led by Macquarie University has investigated the relationship between the hearing of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory and their performance in early literacy activities.

ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Katherine Demuth and Associate Professor Mridula Sharma, researchers from Macquarie University’s ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, and Professor Gillian Wigglesworth from The University of Melbourne, a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, travelled in the Northern Territory for fieldwork during August 2017, accompanied by clinical audiology students and audiology clinical educator, Mr Oskars Stubis.

Over 50 local school children aged 5–11 years were tested to determine their hearing and auditory processing ability, as well as their phonological awareness, which is known as an important precursor to literacy. The results suggested that children’s phonological awareness increases with age and that Indigenous children tend to have significantly poorer hearing than the greater Australian population. Ear health was not correlated with phonological awareness.

This research is providing important social benefits to Australia—the project has already provided training for audiology students and has shed light on some of the factors that may impact school readiness.

These findings are being built upon by a further study focussing on understanding the listening challenges of children in remote communities and the potential effects this may have on learning.

Image: Audiometry testing with resident of Yirrkala community by Madeleine Pearson, then Masters of Clinical Audiology student, Macquarie University.
Image credit: Jessica Rom.