Prof De Wet Swanepoel awarded British Association Medal

Posted on June 30, 2016

Prof De Wet Swanepoel, professor of Audiology at the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria (UP), was awarded the S2A3 British Association Medal for his contributions to the use of technology and connectivity to fight hearing impairment.

The British Association Medal dates back to 1932 and is one of the highest awards for original scientific research in southern Africa. Prof Swanepoel's contributions to this field include the development and validation of smartphone-based hearing testing at a fraction of the cost of conventional testing. The app that he and his team developed is very user-friendly and can be operated by laypersons towards early detection of hearing loss in both children and adults.

Following the award ceremony, Prof Swanepoel presented a lecture titled 'Using technology and connectivity to fight a silent epidemic.' He noted that permanent debilitating hearing loss affected more than 360 million people across the globe, of which approximately 3 million were South African. He explained that hearing loss was a silent and invisible epidemic that had various serious consequences for society at large, including higher unemployment and mortality rates, poor health, social isolation, depression and dementia. According to Prof Swanepoel, more than 80% of people affected by debilitating hearing loss reside in developing countries. Despite most cases of hearing loss being preventable or treatable, the overwhelming majority of people in these countries do not have access to care. New solutions arising from advances in technology and connectivity, however, show great promise in increasing access to care.

'Decentralising ear and hearing health care will impact positively on the devastating burden the current health care systems are experiencing. It will ensure that the benefits of early hearing loss detection are realised while the negative impact is minimised and even negated,' he says.


- Author Mikateko Mbambo

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