With the introduction of universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) the need for quality early hearing intervention (EHI) services became critical. Screening is but the avenue to EHI services. Without appropriate intervention infants with hearing loss are at risk for language delay which might subsequently adversely influence academic success and vocational choices later on in life. The numerous socio-economic, cultural and healthcare barriers associated with developing countries such as South Africa, do not negate or diminish the need for optimal outcomes for infants with hearing loss through quality EHI services. The principle of quality EHI services, aligned with international standards, is endorsed by the HPCSA (2003: 2). In order to assure quality in EHI, service evaluation is critical. The necessary first step when evaluating service provision is to measure current service delivery. The main aim of this study was to determine whether South African audiologists provide EHI and support services aligned with international professional best practice to infants following the diagnosis of hearing loss. The first part of this study reviews the evidence available in EHI. The guidelines derived from the international evidence were stated as benchmarks against which South African EHI services were measured. These benchmarks were categorised using the so-called six M variation categories. These categories are: Man, machine (equipment), method (systemaric procedures), measurements, material (amplification devices) and Mother Nature. During the empirical research a descriptive design was followed comprising of questionnaire surveys to audiologists in different working sectors rendering EHI services to infants with hearing loss. The questionnaire survey explored the nature and scope of the EHI services offered to infants with hearing loss with regard to all the components (categorised in the six M categories) of the EHI programme of 40 South African audiologists. The results of this study indicate that respondents often do not use evidence-based measurements or methods during EHI services. Results suggest that undergraduate training in areas regarding the selection and fitting of amplification to infants with hearing loss is often inadequate (>20 respondents indicated that they are not trained). Evidence-based measurements are not typically performed when fitting amplification to infants (29 respondents do not perform probe-microphone or elctroacoustic measurements). Many respondents indicated that they do not have the necessary equipment to do these measurements. EHI services often (50% of respondents) do not provide A/R directly, but refer to other team members. From the results there seems to be significant delays in the rendering of EHI services to infants with hearing loss. Financial constraints of the family of the infants, accessibility problems, as well as a lack of infant support from their families often influence the EHI programmes of respondents. The implications of this study were discussed. Recommendations include the development of South African guidelines, aligned with international guidelines but taking into account the challenges posed by the unique South African context. Other recommendations include: Centres of excellence, relevant continuing education programmes and the evaluation of undergraduate training programmes.
Dissertation (M (Communication Pathology))--University of Pretoria, 2006.