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Protecting the eyes and ears of children

Written by Dale Hes

An NGO is ensuring that children from disadvantaged community are receiving screening for better hearing and eyesight.

HearX is seeking to be the eyes and ears of children by using new technologies that identify health problems related to hearing and sight.The hearX Group is a social enterprise which is using smartphone hearing tests to provide low-cost screening in disadvantaged communities.

The technology, called hearScreen which uses a mobile app to provide valid screening, using pure tone audiometry which is a   global hearing test used to identify hearing loss. 

To detect vision impairment the group has partnered with UK-based social enterprise PeekVision, which  developed an app that offers a mobile eye test. 

The app automatically sends results to an eye care professional for further assessment. 

Since 2017, the project has reached 3 800 children from preschools and schools in the Tembisa and Ivory Park areas of Gauteng. 

“Our Tembisa project is part of our wider aim of empowering individuals with hearing and vision impairments in lower income communities using innovative technology. Working at the local early childhood development (ECD) centres and primary schools, our three screeners are using mobile devices to test children for both hearing and vision quality,” said hearX Group’s founder Nic Klopper.
 
He said children who need further diagnostic hearing and vision assessment are linked to the appropriate follow-up care, and provided with hearing aid or spectacles. 
Kenilwe Mahlangu is the mother of 7-year-old Ofentse, a Grade 1 pupil who underwent the tests. She said that she had suspected something was wrong even before the hearX Group arrived at her son’s school. 

“Just before the campaign started I was actually going to take him for a screening myself. He would squint when watching TV or would hold a book very close to his face when reading. So the test happened at a very good time,” said Mahlangu.

Once the eye test was conducted by hearX Ofentse went for an appointment at SpecSavers, who referred him to a specialist. 

He was fitted with a pair of spectacles, which were received free of charge. Mahlangu said that she has noticed a big difference in her son ever since he started wearing the spectacles.