Public awareness of audiology, hearing and hearing health in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.S Afr J Commun Disord 2017; 64(1):e1-e9SA
The burden of hearing loss is on the increase, especially in low-income countries such as South Africa. The need for urgent action to prevent ear and hearing problems is a priority, especially as in many cases permanent hearing loss is preventable. In South Africa, as in other developing countries, there is a limited number of hearing health professionals and audiological resources. The lack of hearing health services may impact the general public's awareness of hearing and hearing health. Limited information is available on the South African public's knowledge of audiologists and the services they provide, especially in underserved rural communities.
The aim of this study was to describe individuals' awareness of the audiology profession, hearing and hearing loss, and hearing health in a rural area of the Limpopo Province.
A cross-sectional survey design was employed for the purpose of this study. Using a random sampling strategy, 297 households in four rural villages were selected and a selfdeveloped questionnaire was administered to one individual (18 years and older) per household. The questionnaire consisted of 23 questions targeting awareness of the audiology profession, as well as knowledge of hearing, hearing loss and hearing health.
Only 14% of participants were aware of the audiology profession, indicating that individuals living in rural communities are not aware of the role of audiologists and the services they provide. Doctors and nurses were identified by participants as the individuals who assist them with hearing-related problems. Although most participants (87%) acknowledged that it is very important to undergo a hearing test, only 5% have previously visited an audiologist. Most participants were aware that ear infections and excessive noise exposure can cause hearing loss. The majority also believed that ears must be kept clean at all times and used cotton buds to maintain ear hygiene.
There is a general lack of public awareness of audiologists and the services they offer. This study highlighted the need for the National Department of Health in collaboration with professional associations and hearing health professionals to develop and implement effective strategies to increase the South African public's awareness of the profession and the services they provide. South African universities can also play a significant role in teaching students to develop context-relevant strategies to increase awareness of the profession.