A new non-profit hearing clinic offering online screening and support for people with hearing loss concerns in Durban has officially launched in July 2017.
The Hearing Research Clinic is part of my PhD study project. I, Husmita Ratanjee-Vanmali, Clinical Research Audiologist, registered at the University of Pretoria intends to trial eHealth tools to identify hearing complaints.
The Hearing Research Clinic will be utilised to test different methods of service delivery using e-tools. Individuals will begin with a free online hearing screening using the latest technology: the Digit in Noise (DIN) test developed by the University of Pretoria. Individuals will then be followed up with by either a video or audio call with myself. The study will deliver the convenience of hearing aid trials and verification to individuals at their home or office with its philosophy of ‘bringing hearing care to you’.
During the steps of diagnosing and treating hearing loss, the Hearing Research Clinic will also provide holistic care by providing personalised counselling materials and aural rehabilitation exercises via electronic delivery direct to the individual. This will include online counselling and check-ups at critical stages to ensure the individual and audiologist relationship is maintained.
The Hearing Research Clinic will be the first in the world to test the complete client journey using eHealth as a platform, combining both face to face and online modes of communication.
eHealth is already a standard practice in other medical fields such as Psychology and Radiology and a popular tool for dieticians and personal well-being. Project supervisors, Associate Professor Ariane Laplante-Lévesque from University of Linköping and Eriksholm Research Centre and Professor De Wet Swanepoel at the University of Pretoria, believes it is time to explore new ways to practice audiology to progress in line with the modern world, as well as to challenge healthcare spend with a new highly affordable strategy and put South Africa on the map of audiology research.
During my three year study, I will conduct research in the real world via the Hearing Research Clinic to investigate the synergy between audiology and technology. Using evidence-based practice to test, document and finally influence practice guidelines, my study aims to strengthen the role of the audiologist in the digital world.
More people in Africa have access to a mobile phone than they do running water and electricity. So to me, eHealth is a logical and practical solution to hopefully tackle some of the bigger issues for persons seeking hearing care, such as cost and accessibility, using tools they are already comfortable using and have available in their everyday lives.
The PhD driving the Hearing Research Clinic is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), University of Pretoria and the Oticon Foundation. All of the research’s studies will be published in journals and presented at conferences to share with the wider professional hearing community.
The services offered at the Hearing Research Clinic will be charged at medical aid rates to ensure that the clinic is sustainable and quality of care is uncompromised.
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