Local innovation makes hearing screening services more accessible

Recent WHO estimates indicate that there are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss (5.3% of the world’s population).

Making healthy hearing accessible

With less than one hearing health provider to every million people in Africa, prospects for affected individuals are dire due to unavailable access to systematic hearing screening services in Sub-Saharan Africa.

hearScreen, the innovative smartphone solution that won the Inaugural Phillips Innovation Fellowship Competition, is on a mission to change all of that by making access to healthy hearing possible for people across all walks of life.

The innovative solution provides affordable detection of hearing loss with clinically valid hearing screening by using a smartphone and calibrated headphone.

Read: What is hearing loss?

hearScreen has been developed so that anyone who is literate can facilitate a hearing screening. It is intended for a range of persons in the health sector including therapists, doctors, nurses, clinics, and community health workers. It is also intended for other sectors such as schools – whether used by teachers or other support staff – by corporate wellness programmes and other healthy living and wellness initiatives.

Testing is completed within a minute or two and only requires those being tested to raise their hand when they hear a sound presented through the headphones. Evidence-based test algorithms and quality control features ensure tests can be facilitated by anyone

Read: Types of hearing loss 

For the elderly, hearing loss leads to social isolation, depression and is associated with a threefold increased risk of dementia. Loss of healthy hearing is an invisible epidemic with far reaching consequences. For a while, parents may not know their child has a problem

Locally, more than three million South Africans have permanent disabling hearing loss and as many as one in ten children may experience hearing difficulties that could impact their education, making it essential that all South Africans have their hearing tested.

Read: Treating hearing loss

The Integrated School Health Policy of South Africa for example requires school children to be tested three times during their school career, however, less than 5% of these children are actually tested.

A soft launch

“Children and adults too, should have regular screenings and those who are older than 60 years of age should be tested annually,” says Prof De Wet Swanepoel, inaugural Innovation Fellows Competition winner and professor of Audiology at the University of Pretoria.

hearScreen has been running a soft launch for the past four months in preparation for its commercial launch in February 2016.

The hearScreen software and accompanying hardware (Samsung Smartphone, Sennheiser headphone and carrycase) will be provided free with the initial purchase of a 100 screening tests at R45 per test, which includes a test, sms/email report, and a referral to closest hearing health providers. Additional hearing test credits can be purchased for as little as R15 per test. 

Read more: 

A hearing aid can restore your quality of life 

Stem cells may cure deafness 

The gift of hearing

References:

World Health Organisation, American Academy of Audiology 

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