Steve Biko Academic Hospital staff participate in an awareness exercise to commemorate National Month of Deaf People. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/ANA

STAFF AT Steve Biko Academic Hospital yesterday underwent a hearing test as part of its audiology department’s campaign to raise awareness around deafness and Deaf Month.

Ear, nose and throat specialist Coleen Maritz said it was important that they understood the problem.

The hospital and Hear X Group, which offers innovative clinically validated smart phone hearing test solutions in the country, took the campaign to the hospital to mark National Month of Deaf People and raise awareness around deafness.

“There are 360million people in the world with disabling hearing loss. Losing your hearing can happen and there is help,” Maritz said.

“We decided to focus mainly on our staff members because if they know the causes of hearing loss they can easily identify them in patients.”

Hearing was a sense often taken for granted, she said, until it was lost. There were many causes of deafness people were not aware of.

“Many things can make a person develop hearing loss, anything from infections, trauma, if you hurt your ear, medication, and even some painkillers,” she said.

Patients often visited dentists and gynaecologists, but not audiologists. About 100 staff members from various hospital departments participated. They were first taken through a hearscope, a device connected to a phone which uses a camera to look into someone’s ear.

The device is used to check for infections or any problems that could affect ears and conducted at the first point of contact.

If a problem was identified at this first stage, patients were transferred to the ear, nose and throat department for a full assessment, Maritz said.

None of the participating staff members had any ear problems, and so they were sent to the next station, where a middle ear assessment was done before they proceeded to the last stage - a hearing test - using technology called Hear Z.

Another specialist and head of the University of Pretoria’s department of otorhinolaryngology, Professor Mashudu Tshifularo, heads the campaign. Most staff had no major problems, although some had a bit of wax in their ears, he said.

“Our staff members have no infections, which makes sense because they have medical aid and can visit health facilities any time,” he said. The campaign would be held every September to mark deaf awareness.

Hear X sales manager Annemarie Ross Vivier said knowing one’s hearing status was important and she called for people to be screened to detect hearing problems at an early stage.

The campaign would be going around the city and would be in Mamelodi soon, offering assistance for free, she said.