Today marks World Hearing Day, an annual World Health Organisation (WHO) led initiative that aims to draw attention to hearing loss, its economic impact and the cost-effectiveness of interventions to address it.
In light of the this year’s World Hearing Day theme: “Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment,” the developers of hearZA – the national hearing test app – are running a campaign to make people aware of the free mobile hearing technology available to them and the importance of preventative screening.
“More than three million South Africans suffer from permanent disabling hearing loss,” said Lead-inventor of hearZA, Prof De Wet Swanepoel.
Called a silent epidemic, hearing loss affects 1 in 7 persons annually. It has pervasive and far-reaching effects on development in children including speech, language, cognition and socio-emotional well-being and is one of the major barriers to educational success. In adults its effects include social isolation, increased depression and cognitive decline with a threefold increased risk of dementia. The WHO estimates that hearing loss leads to a $750 billion annual global economic cost.
hearZA was developed and validated by the University of Pretoria and is a world-first clinically valid hearing test that provides the user with a free hearing test in under three minutes. The app was launched on both iOS and Android platforms on World Hearing Day last year and has to date tested more than 24,646 people, identified 4,773 with hearing loss and has linked close to 500 people to their closest hearing health providers based on geolocation.
To continue its vision for healthy hearing for everyone, everywhere, hearZA have partnered with professional organisations including the South African Audiological Association (SAAA) and South African Speech, Language and Hearing Association (SASLHA) to register 300+ audiology practices nationally to ensure more people can access hearing health providers through the app.