Few estimates are available of the need for assistive devices (ADs) in African settings. This study aimed to estimate population-level need for glasses and hearing aids in The Gambia based on (1) clinical impairment assessment, and (2) self-reported AD awareness, and explore the relationship between the two methods. The Gambia 2019 National Eye Health Survey is a nationally representative population-based sample of 9188 adults aged 35+ years. Participants underwent standardised clinical vision assessments including the need for glasses (distance and near). Approximately 25% of the sample underwent clinical assessment of hearing and hearing aid need. Data were also collected on self-reported awareness, need and access barriers to vision and hearing ADs. Overall, 5.6% of the study population needed distance glasses (95% CI 5.0-6.3), 45.9% (95% CI 44.2-47.5) needed near glasses and 25.5% (95% CI 22.2-29.2) needed hearing aids. Coverage for each AD was very low (<4%). The agreement between self-report and clinical impairment assessment for AD need was poor. In conclusion, there is high prevalence and very low coverage for distance glasses, near glasses and hearing aids in The Gambia. Self-report measures alone will not provide an accurate estimate of AD need.
Keywords: access; assistive device; glasses; hearing aids; hearing impairment; need; surveys; vision impairment.