Background: There is a lack of hearing health care globally, and tele-audiology and mobile technologies have been proposed as important strategies to reduce the shortfall.
Objectives: To investigate the accuracy and reliability of smartphone self-test audiometry in adults, in community clinics in low-income settings.
Methods: A prospective, intra-individual, repeated measurements design was used. Sixty-three adult participants (mean age 52 years, range 20-88 years) were recruited from ENT and primary health care clinics in a low-income community in Tshwane, South Africa. Air conduction hearing thresholds for octave frequencies 0.5 to 8 kHz collected with the smartphone self-test in non-sound treated environments were compared to those obtained by reference audiometry.
Results: The overall mean difference between threshold seeking methods (ie, smartphone thresholds subtracted from reference) was -2.2 dB HL (n = 467 thresholds, P = 0.00). Agreement was within 10 dB HL for 80.1% (n = 467 thresholds) of all threshold comparisons. Sensitivity for detection hearing loss >40 dB HL in one ear was 90.6% (n = 84 ears), and specificity 94.2% (n = 84 ears).
Conclusion: Smartphone self-test audiometry can provide accurate and reliable air conduction hearing thresholds for adults in community clinics in low-income settings.
Keywords: audiometry; global health; hearing loss; mHealth; smartphone; telemedicine.