The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a free app that anyone can use directly on a smartphone to screen their hearing directly. The launch of the HearWHO app coincided with World Hearing Day with the theme for 2019 being early identification and intervention for hearing loss.
We don’t always easily notice when someone has hearing loss. Even those who are affected often go through life without realizing that their hearing is impaired – that they’re not catching certain sounds and words. They could also potentially be missing out on measures to prevent further deterioration or to manage the condition.
Prevention of hearing loss
There are an estimated 466 million people across the world with disabling hearing loss. The WHO believes that without action this could rise to over 900 million by 2050 – when today’s children are in the prime of their lives.
Many causes of hearing loss are preventable. The most important of these are:
- regular exposure to loud noise – and this includes listening to music at high volumes
- ear infections and childhood infections, like mumps and measles, where hearing loss as a known complication
- ototoxic medications (certain antibiotics, diuretics, NSAIDs and chemotherapy drugs).
The purpose of the HearWHO app is to raise awareness of the importance of hearing and to encourage all adults to check their hearing regularly. This applies especially to those who are at risk and to persons over 50.
The WHO is also urging health care workers to use the HearWHO app as a screening tool, particularly in primary health care settings. Those with possible hearing loss can then be referred for formal diagnostic testing and management as needed.
How the HearWHO app works
The HearWHO test is a sensitive and validated hearing loss screening tool. It can be downloaded on both Android and iOS devices and will be available in six different languages by the end of 2019. Users are encouraged to register with an alias to protect personal information.
The platform is user-friendly – it is simple to use, interprets the results, and provides relevant information to the user about the results. Regular testing is encouraged as the results can be saved so that hearing can be tracked over time.
The technology used for HearWHO is known as digits-in-noise which mimics everyday speech in an environment with background noise. If the surroundings are too noisy, this will indicate on the screen.
Test and create awareness
Download HearWHO now from the app store on your phone. Assess your own hearing and that of your family and friends. Use the opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of hearing and preventing hearing loss.
Use the app in everyday nursing practice to screen for hearing loss in your patients – especially when it seems that their hearing is impaired.