Surveys of ear disease amongst Aboriginal people in two isolated bush communities (Wiluna and La Grange) and one urban community (Kwinana) in Western Australia were undertaken in 1988 or 1989. The age-adjusted prevalence odds ratio (relative risk) of perforations of the tympanic membrane for Wiluna compared with Kwinana was 5.0 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7-12.2) and 6.8 (95% CI 3.5-13.9) for La Grange compared with Kwinana. The relative risk of mild hearing loss, in comparison with Kwinana, was 2.5 (95% CI 1.5-4.3) for Wiluna and 3.2 (95% CI 2.0-5.0) for La Grange. There was no significant difference in the relative risk of moderate or severe hearing loss or impedance pattern B, usually interpreted as "glue ear", in any of the three communities. Overall, the urban Aboriginal community had less ear disease and hearing loss than either of the isolated bush communities, but even this community did not approach the much lower levels of prevalence in Australia as a whole.