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Protecting the eyes and ears of children

Written by Dale Hes

An NGO wants children from disadvantaged communities to receive better hearing and eyesight screening.

HearX ensures that children receive the necessary care if they have any vision or earing impairments.HearX is seeking to be the eyes and ears of children through new technologies that identify health problems related to hearing and sight. The HearX Group is a social enterprise which uses smartphone hearing tests to provide low-cost screening to disadvantaged communities.

The technology, called hearScreen, uses a mobile app to provide valid screening, through pure tone audiometry which is a global hearing test 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 pre-schools 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 assessments are linked to the appropriate follow-up care, and provided with hearing aids or spectacles.

Kenilwe Mahlangu is the mother of seven-year-old Ofentse, a Grade 1 pupil who underwent the tests. She said that she 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 provided free of charge. Mahlangu said that she noticed a big difference in her son after since he started wearing the spectacles.