Teleaudiology Makes a Difference in Zambia, Africa
August 20, 2014
People with hearing problems are being helped in Zambia, a developing country larger than Texas with a population of more than 14 million. Dr. Jackie Clark, a clinical associate Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences http://bbs.utdallas.edu at the University of Texas, Dallashttp://utdallas.edu has helped Dr. Alfred Mwamba establish a teleaudiology practice over the past year in the landlocked country of Zambia located in South-Central Africa.
According to Clark, “Telemedicine in the U.S has been in practice for 40 years, but that teleaudiology has only become a serious clinical option within the past several years.” Telemedicine requires a centrally located doctor, a clinical assistant at the remote location with the patient, a reliable internet connection, and two computers with video cameras. However, to specifically use teleaudiology, computer-linkable audiology equipment has to be added to the telemedicine technology.
The program officially launched last October by Mwamba and Clark has helped 30 Zambian patients via the internet by using new teleaudiology equipment. The technology was provided by Sound Seekers, www.sound-seekers.org.uka group working to improve hearing health in impoverished communities.
With the help of a trained clinical officer at the remote site, audiologists miles away are able to examine the inside of patients’ ears using a video otoscope, program hearing aids, test the functionality of the eardrum, and conduct auditory brainstem analysis to check the viability of the auditory nerve.
To help prepare clinical officers to help Mwamba and other audiologists in developing countries, Clark helped create the International Hearing Care Technician course. The purpose of the 20 hour online certificate program is to train individuals at a low cost to perform audiological services under the supervision of an audiologist or otolaryngologist.
The program developed with the American Institute of Continuing Medical Education, the University of New England, and Education Without Borders, is aimed at increasing the number of local medical workers in developing countries.
Clark is also a co-chair and one of the founders of the Coalition for Global Hearing Health www.coalitionforglobalhearinghealth.org. She reports, “Of the 360 million people worldwide who must live with disabling hearing loss, most will never receive help due to low or no resources available. Reducing disability through remediating the problem has proven to help break the cycle of poverty and helps to positively impact communities.