Supporting hearing health in vulnerable populations through community care workers using mHealth technologies

Int J Audiol. 2019 Nov;58(11):790-797. doi: 10.1080/14992027.2019.1649478. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Objective: Access to hearing care is challenging in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of hearing loss is greatest. This study investigated a community-based hearing screening programme using smartphone testing by community care workers (CCWs) in vulnerable populations infected or affected by HIV. Experiences of CCWs were also surveyed. Design: The study comprised two phases. Phase one employed a cross-sectional research design to describe the community-based programme. Phase two was a survey design to describe CCW's knowledge and experiences. Study Sample: Fifteen trained CCWs administered hearing screenings on 511 participants during home-based visits using a validated smartphone application (hearScreen™) during phase one. Diagnostic follow-up assessments included evaluation using the smartphone test (hearTest™), otoscopy and tympanometry. Phase two surveyed the 15 CCW screening experiences. Results: Referral rates for adults and children were 5.0% and 4.2%, respectively. 75.0% of referred participants returned for follow-up diagnostic assessments, 33.3% were diagnosed with hearing loss and referred for further intervention. All 15 CCWs agreed that communities needed hearing services and only 6.6% did not want to continue providing hearing screening. Conclusion: Trained CCWs can decentralise hearing services to vulnerable communities using smartphone screening incorporating automated testing and measures of quality control.

Keywords: HIV and AIDS; community based; mHealth; smartphone; tele-assisted; vulnerable.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Workers / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis*
  • Hearing Tests / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smartphone
  • South Africa
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Vulnerable Populations