21 Jul 2014

Hearing loss more prevalent in Maori - study

7:31 pm on 21 July 2014

Permanent hearing loss is twice as prevalent among young Maori than Pakeha - but there's no firm evidence to suggest why, research shows.

A study by a team at Auckland University points to 43 percent of Maori suffering, compared with 22 per cent for New Zealand Europeans.

The findings, based on health databases, also reveal that tamariki and rangatahi are more likely to have problems in both ears, including severe and profound conditions.

Professor Suzanne Purdy, the head of speech science at the university, says further investigation is needed to find out the causes.

She says the most common cause listed on the databases is listed as "unknown", which leads to an assumption those causes might be genetic.

Professor Purdy says there is a suspicion that some older Maori children have hearing loss due to middle ear disease, but that doesn't explain the whole story.

The research has been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The authors say their study into hearing loss should prompt health officials to address how Maori children are treated.

They say the main lesson is for officials to look at how they are managing hearing loss in children, to ensure Maori are properly served.

Professor Purdy says many of those children may have problems in both ears, that would not necessarily have been treated in the past.