The role of community health workers in developing countries

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Trained community health workers (CHW) are effective in detecting disabling hearing loss and providing hearing aids in patients in developing countries, a study from Christian College in Vellore, India has shown.

“Hearing loss is a major handicap in developing countries with paucity of trained audiologists and limited resources,” according to the authors who trained community health workers to providecomprehensive hearing aid services in the community. One hundred and eleven patients were fitted with semi-digital hearing aids and were evaluated over a period of six months. They were assessed using the self-report outcome measure APHAB. Results show that trained CHWs are effective in detecting disabling hearing loss and in providing hearing aids.

“APHAB can identify and pick up significant improvements in communication in daily activities and provides a realistic expectation of the benefits of a hearing aid,” the authors say. “The model of using trained CHWs to provide rehabilitative services in audiology along with self-report outcome measures can be replicated in other developing countries.”

APHAB picked up significant improvements in communication especially in reverberant rooms and in settings with high background noise levels.

“Though the questionnaire is long, the questions take into consideration most of the situations the patients face in their daily life. However in a rural community with lack of basic amenities some of the questions may not be assessed for a considerable time period till the patient comes into contact with such situations.

“However, it is the most comprehensive questionnaire and gives the patient a realistic expectation from a hearing aid. It can also be used at a later time when the patient upgrades his hearing aid and thus the benefits can be compared.”

Source: ISRN Otolaryngol. 2013

Rose Simpson