An app that lets users test their hearing using their smart device has been developed and validated by researchers at the University of Pretoria. If a user of the app fails the hearing test, the app recommends the nearest hearing healthcare provider based on the user’s location.
The app, hearZATM, was officially launched on 2 March 2016 at The Innovation Hub in Tshwane, ahead of World Hearing Day on 3 March. It will be available for download nationally on both the Android and iOS operating systems at no cost, thus providing millions of South Africans with a free hearing test.
‘More than three million South Africans suffer from permanent, disabling hearing loss,’ explains Prof De Wet Swanepoel, lead inventor of the hearZATM app. He says that unidentified hearing loss has far-reaching consequences, including communication difficulties, lethargy, and a greater risk of depression and dementia.
Early detection using hearZATM can provide access to better hearing for better living. The two-minute test, made possible by Vodacom, Sivantos, Oticon and the Ear Institute, requires users to listen to simple digits in noise. On completion, each user receives a unique hearing score.
Click on the icon below to listen to an example of the hearing test.
To ensure that users who are diagnosed with a hearing problem get the help they need, the app links them to their closest hearing healthcare providers based on geolocation, which most modern smart devices are equipped with.
The South African Association of Audiologists (SAAA) and the South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association (SASLHA) have partnered with hearZATM to build a national referral network.
In support of World Hearing Day, the first 18 persons diagnosed with disabling hearing loss using the hearZATM app will receive a sponsored audiological evaluation at a registered provider, as well as hearing aids if needed. These hearing aids will be donated by leading manufacturers Sivantos, Oticon and the Ear Institute.
‘The smartphone-based National Hearing Test is the first of its kind,’ says Prof Swanepoel. ‘It not only provides accurate testing but encourages hearing health awareness through a gamified user experience.’
hearZATM is released by hearScreen (Pty), which has licensed the app from the University of Pretoria, and it is currently supported by The Innovation Hub under its Maxum Business Incubator and mLab Southern Africa.
Prof De Wet Swanepoel demonstrating the hearZATM app to a user