Using affordable, available technology, and specially developed software, HearScreen detects and addresses hearing difficulties in young children before problems become irreversible.

The need

Hearing problems impact a child’s performance at school, with approximately 1 in 10 children in South Africa currently affected by disabling hearing loss. Children from lower income groups are especially at risk, as hearing loss increases as household income declines.

The early detection of hearing impairment is critical, as it allows professionals to intervene sooner and to mitigate potential learning difficulties. The problem is that there are no thorough screening programmes in place to detect hearing loss in pre-school age children – especially in under-served communities.

There is an opportunity to create a solution that is able to cost-effectively identify and treat hearing problems before they affect the learning ability of a child.

The innovation

HearScreen has developed and is testing a low-cost mobile solution, which identifies hearing loss in young children and links affected children to local medical professionals. Traditionally, hearing screening services have been limited to hospitals and clinics because the screening test needs expensive equipment and trained professionals. As a result, children in low-income communities have not had easy access to screening.

The hearScreen innovation allows anyone to conduct a basic hearing screen test using just a smartphone App and calibrated headset.
HearScreen has been validated alongside existing gold standard equipment and shown to be equivalent in test performance with better efficiency and quality control.

This project demonstrates the feasibility and efficacy of implementing hearScreen at a population level, through community-based ECD services.

Key insights

This change making solution overcomes many of the traditional barriers to screening and makes it possible to address problems before they have an irreversible impact.

The fact that the service is both affordable and accessible means children from poor communities will have access to services that they normally wouldn’t. Early screening gives these children a chance to compete on a level playing field with their peers.

The pilot has demonstrated that the product works, but integration into the broader health ecosystem remains a challenge. Innovation Edge is seeking partners for scale for this potentially life-changing innovation.

The project team

HearScreen is an innovative start-up providing smart solutions for healthy hearing.

The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators’ dues, corporate sponsors, foundations, and others who support public education initiatives.