Objective: To establish community health workers as reliable hearing screening operators in a technology-based pre-surgical hearing screening program in a low and middle-income country (LMIC).
Methods: This is a cross sectional study that evaluated community health worker driven hearing screening that took place in semi-rural Malindi, Kenya during an annual two-week otolaryngology surgical training mission in October 2017. At five separate locations (four schools) near Malindi, Kenya, children between the ages of 2-16 underwent hearing screening using screening audiometry (Android-based HearX Group). Children were screened by a community health worker who underwent a short training course, a senior otolaryngology resident, or both. Hearing screening results were compared to determine the reliability and concordance between independent, blinded community health worker and otolaryngology resident testing.
Results: One hundred and four participants (53% males) underwent hearing screening. Hearing screening pass rate was 93%. Community health workers obtained a similar result to otolaryngology residents 96% of the time (McNemar test: p = 0.16, OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.9-1.0).
Conclusion: Community health workers can obtain reliable results using a technology-based, pre-surgical hearing screening platform when compared to otolaryngology residents. This finding has profound implications in low-resourced settings where hearing healthcare specialists (audiologists and otolaryngologists) are limited and can ultimately improve the surgical yield of patients presenting to local otolaryngologists in these settings.
Keywords: Audiometry; Community health workers; Global health; Hearing loss; Hearing tests; Low- and middle-income countries; Low-resourced settings; Mobile health; Physician-extenders; Public health.
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