UP hearScreen project sees preschoolers hear again

Posted on September 12, 2016

Two children identified with hearing loss in Mamelodi recently received hearing aids through a University of Pretoria initiative. The project led by Prof De Wet Swanepoel from the Department of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria (UP) provided the hearing aids through a sponsorship by the Swedish distributor of the hearing aid company Phonak. The event formed part of a community service initiative by the Department that focusses on screening children for hearing loss at Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in underprivileged areas of Mamelodi. This social impact project was made possible by UP, Innovation Edge, hearScreen and the NEA foundation.

Prof Swanepoel explains that the initiative is classified as a community project in the sense that it is sponsored by an NGO, the Innovation Edge, who sponsors innovations in early childhood development. 'We have been privileged to partner with a lot of organisations to make this project a success. It is actually a community service project and a research project combined,' he says.

Innovation Edge partnered with the University on the hearScreen app, which is a smartphone-based hearing test solution that can be used by laypersons to screen young children for hearing problems at a fraction of the cost of a traditional hearing test. This project is currently screening ten thousand children in more than four hundred ECD centres across Mamelodi.

'We are now half-way through the project and we have identified a number of children with hearing loss. Some of these children are receiving medical treatment, while others, like the two who are receiving hearing aids today, are receiving audiological treatment,' said Prof Swanepoel on the day.

Mr Mandla Shongwe, the father of one of the children who received the hearing aids, Ms Nqobile Ngobeni, said, 'I am overjoyed and grateful to be here today, because I know that the hearing aid will make a difference in my daughter's life. It really has pained me to see that she could not interact and communicate properly with other children her age.'

Ms Ngobeni now has a better chance at an education because early detection of hearing loss helps improve a child's ability to learn and therefore contributes to good academic performance. The hearing aids are not merely a donation that costs thousands of rands, they will change lives. Mother Teresa said: 'It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.' This resonates with the sentiments expressed by Prof Swanepoel at the event: 'This is one of those very special projects that are rewarding because we see the end product of the solutions we have been developing over the past three years. Seeing these kids being fitted with hearing aids is the cherry on top. The reaction on their faces is very special,' he said.


- Author Mikateko Mbambo

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