SA makes itself heard with smartphone app
A South African app that uses a smartphone to detect hearing loss is on the way to worldwide use.
HearScreen‚ which can be downloaded free‚ is being used in 25 countries‚ and its developer‚ hearZA‚ is working with the World Health Organisation and the US aid agency USAid.
The app offers a game-style two-minute test which needs nothing more than a smartphone and a pair of headphones. The results are captured and can be shared with hearing loss experts.
The South African Association of Audiologists and the Speech-Language-Hearing Association have partnered with hearZA to build a referral network where people can seek help if they are losing their hearing.
The idea for the app was born when hearZA chief executive Nic Klopper served on a Department of Health committee implementing a policy aimed at screening 3.5-million children for hearing loss annually.
"Realising that the prohibitive costs of current test equipment and technical expertise required meant that less than 5% of children were receiving these services made me look into exploring alternative solutions‚" Klopper told The Guardian. "Capitalising on the rapid growth in smartphone technology and connectivity just made sense."
Klopper asked the University of Pretoria to develop hearScreen. "It provides the first smartphone-based hearing test that allows acoustic calibration of test stimuli according to prescribed national and international standards‚" said Klopper.
The app was designed to enable a layperson with minimal training to use a test accurately. Users can share their scores‚ invite others to take the test‚ view a scoreboard and connect with Facebook.