PhD Research study: Strengthening the role of the audiologist in the digital age

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, JULY 13th, 2017 – A new hearing clinic offering online screening and support for people with hearing loss concerns is set to go live on July 16th   2017. 

PHOTO: Hearing Review

The non-profit Hearing Research Clinic, which will be launched in Durban, South Africa, is part of a PhD study project by Husmita Ratanjee-Vanmali from the University of Pretoria intending to trial eHealth tools to identify hearing complaints.
The three year study, conducting research in the real world via the Hearing Research Clinic, will investigate the synergy between audiology and technology.  Using evidence-based practice to test, document and finally influence practice guidelines it aims to strengthen the role of the audiologist in the digital world.
The Clinic will be utilised to test different methods of service delivery using e-tools. Persons will be taken on a journey which begins with a free online hearing screening using the latest technology: Digit in Noise (DIN) test developed by the University of Pretoria. Persons are followed up with video or audio calls with the clinic’s Clinical Research Audiologist and PhD student, Husmita Ratanjee-Vanmali. The study will deliver the convenience of hearing aid trials and verification to patients at their home or office with its philosophy of ‘bringing hearing care to you’. During the steps of diagnosing and treating hearing loss, the Hearing Research Clinic will also provide holistic care by providing personalised counselling materials and aural rehabilitation exercises via electronic delivery direct to the patient. This will include online counselling and check-ups at critical stages to ensure the patient and audiologist relationship is maintained. The Hearing Research Clinic will be the first in the world to test the complete patient journey using eHealth as a platform, combining both face to face and online modes of communication.
eHealth is already a standard practice in other medical fields such as Psychology and Radiology and a popular tool for dieticians and personal well-being. Project supervisors, Professors Ariane Laplante-Lévesque from University of Linköping and Eriksholm Research Centre and De Wet Swanepoel at the University of Pretoria, believes it is time to explore news ways to practice audiology to progress in line with the modern world, as well as to challenge health care spend with a new highly affordable strategy and put South Africa on the map of audiology research.
Husmita Ratanjee-Vanmali, PhD student commented: “More people in Africa have access to a mobile phone than they do running water and electricity and so eHealth is a logical and practical solution to hopefully tackle some of the bigger issues for persons seeking hearing care, such as cost and accessibility, using tools they are already comfortable using and have available in their everyday lives.”
Husmita Ratanjee-Vanmali continues: “Through real world research we want to ensure that the audiologist is at the heart of providing hearing health care services in this changing landscape but our overall mission is to use the data we collect to influence South African Audiology practices for the future, to change the lives of those suffering with hearing loss.”
The PhD driving the Hearing Research Clinic is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), University of Pretoria and the Oticon Foundation. All of the research’s studies will be published in journals and presented at conferences to share with the wider professional hearing community.
“The Oticon Foundation is a charitable business foundation that supports projects within the areas of research, education, culture and selected social areas”, said Thomas Behrens, Head of Audiology, Oticon A/S. “Oticon appreciates the importance of research and study into the future of hearing care and consequently healthcare, which is why we are extremely excited to be supporting this worthy project. As an industry leader in advanced audiology and hearing aid technology it is vital that we are at the heart of the newest technology both in products and treatment.”
By Kreanne Jaipal

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