Community health workers obtain similar results using cell-phone based hearing screening tools compared to otolaryngologists in low resourced settings

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2019 Dec;127:109670. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2019.109670. Epub 2019 Sep 5.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Audiometry / instrumentation*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries*
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Otolaryngology
  • Poverty
  • Reproducibility of Results