World Hearing Day (3 March) is an initiative by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to create awareness about the importance of hearing. This year’s theme is – “don’t let hearing loss limit you”. Unfortunately, South Africa only has approximately 2.4 audiologists per 100 000 residents, compared to the UK’s average of 16.4. The need in South Africa is great. About t 1 in 10 children in our country is likely to experience educationally significant hearing problems.
For children to thrive at school and achieve educational success, they have to be able to hear and see properly. It seems so simple, but unfortunately it has become a difficult task to detect hearing and vision difficulties in children living in communities where the access to healthcare professionals and equipment is scarce.
Innovative solutions with great impact
Valcare proudly partnered with the hearX Foundation who uses ground-breaking smartphone technology, developed by the hearX Group, to conduct hearing screenings effectively and affordably.
Screening costs are reduced by 50%, and screenings can also be conducted by non-clinical practitioners in the community, without any previous experience or knowledge of audiology.
The programme Ears and Eyes for Education (3E) was implemented in Mbekweni in 2019 with the goal to provide vision and hearing screenings to children at Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and the local primary schools.
To date, the 3E Mbekweni project has screened the vision and hearing of 1079 children between the ages of 4 and 7 years old, across 30 ECD centres and three primary schools. More than 80 referrals have been made where children can be seen by medical doctor, optometrist, audiologist or social worker.
Hearing challenges were picked up in 42 children where after they were referred to a specialist or clinic, most relevant to their need.
Demonstrating the power of collaboration, hearX is also working with VisionBox, who offers highly discounted and appropriately affordable eye tests and spectacles to the community of Mbekweni. Most of the parents have gone this route, with five children receiving new glasses, allowing them to see properly for the first time.
“As partners of the 3E Mbekweni programme, we are committed to continue fighting for our young children because we believe that they should not be limited by hearing or vision loss!” says Tersia de Kock, projects lead & audiologist, hearX.
Stories of Hope – Iminathi, Charlotte and Enzokuhle*
During their screenings at ECD centres in Mbekweni, hearX Foundation picked up that two little girls, Iminathi and Charlotte, couldn’t see very well. After being referred to VisionBox, the optometrist did an eye test and sponsored their new glasses, opening new opportunities for them. Enzokuhle, another ECD learner, was identified with moderate hearing loss and is currently being supported through the referral pathway.
“Who knows when they would’ve been given a chance to do a vision or hearing screening otherwise, and how it would have affected their education, and life? Each and every referred child who reaches healthcare services for intervention, is celebrated by the 3E Mbekweni project team. The more children we can help, and the earlier we can help them, the better,” says Nicol Truscott, project manager from hearX Foundation.
About the hearX Group
hearX Group (Pty) Ltd is an award-winning scale-up with the mission of providing affordable access to healthcare using digital health solutions that anyone can use, anywhere. Their primary value is social impact to reach people who traditionally do not have access to hearing healthcare. The hearX Group offers the world’s first clinically valid smartphone hearing solutions with the aim to provide healthy hearing to everyone, everywhere.
If you would like to channel funds towards health programmes like hearX Foundation, or get involved by volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pseudonyms used for the names of the children.