OBJECTIVE : A national survey of early hearing detection and intervention services was
undertaken to describe the current status of diagnostic and intervention services in the South
African private health care sector.
METHODS : All private hospitals with obstetric units (n = 166) were surveyed telephonically. The
data was integrated with data collected from self-administered questionnaires subsequently
distributed nationally to private audiology practices providing hearing screening at the
respective hospitals reporting hearing screening services (n = 87). Data was analysed
descriptively to yield national percentages and frequency distributions.
RESULTS : Average reported age at diagnosis was 11 months. Most participants (74%) indicated
that less than 20% of infants fitted with hearing aids received amplification before the age
of 6 months. Most (64%) participants indicated that the average period between confirmed
diagnosis and hearing aid fitting was 1 month, on par with international benchmarks. Only
16%–23% of participants included all diagnostic procedures recommended by the Health
Professions Council of South Africa’s 2007 position statement for minimum diagnostic test
batteries for infants and young children.
CONCLUSIONS : Diagnosis of hearing loss, hearing aid fitting and audiological intervention
is delayed significantly in the South African private health care sector. Improved services
should include integrated systematic hospital-based screening as part of birthing packages
with diagnostic referral to specialist paediatric audiologists for accurate assessment and
management of patients in a timely manner.