Hearing & Vision

Loss of hearing, to even a mild degree, causes a major barrier to learning. This is due to the fact that all formal learning activities in school environments are facilitated through our sense of hearing. Even a slight hearing loss can cause a child to miss up to 50% of classroom discussion. In South Africa, 1 in 10 children have an educationally significant hearing loss. Currently, less than 5% of children in our country have access to hearing screening in schools. This, despite our Government’s recommendation that a child should have his or her hearing screened at least three times during their school career.

Hearing problems can be temporary – due to excessive wax build up or middle ear disease, or permanent. In cases where temporary hearing loss is picked up in a screening, medical management by a GP or ENT specialist can be put into place. Timely medical management of outer and middle ear problems can resolve both hearing and balance effects. Balance problems also affect physical play, the ability to sit still for long periods in class, and motor function at the most basic level.

Living with a hearing loss, either permanent or temporary, has severe consequences for a child. Language, education, future employment, and socio-emotional well–being is all affected by untreated hearing loss. The latest data published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in March 2017 states that untreated hearing loss has an annual global cost of $750 billion. Early detection and intervention can change this.

Hearing Screening

Performed Annually

To identify permanent or temporary hearing loss.

Visual Screening

Performed Annually

To identify eye infections and visual impairment

By performing regular vision and hearing screenings, we are armed with early detection and can then red-flag these factors – which have a direct and very negative impact on a child’s ability to focus, concentrate and learn in class.

With a combined 32 years of experience, Mandy van den Berg and Ceri Soulsby have been involved in school hearing screenings in the private sector in Johannesburg for over 15 years. During this time they’ve screened more than 12 000 children. Their new venture “Hear To Learn” will provide basic hearing and vision screening as part of the HeadStartc Kids programme. The hearing and vision screenings are inexpensive, easy to administer and the equipment is easily transportable. The aim of the hearing screening is to identify hearing loss, even mild or only in one ear, that could impact on a child’s education. Trying to learn in a  classroom, when the teacher’s voice is muffled or unclear, or the group participation from all the students is not heard, makes effective learning extremely hard. The same is true for the effect on learning reading, writing, spelling and a number of other skills, from undetected and untreated visual problems.

The Hear To Learn programme checks the ear canals, eardrums and the hearing sensitivity for soft sounds in the Hearing sector and runs a basic visual acuity check in the Vision sector.

Using cloud-based software, appropriate management can be put into place should a problem be identified. Field workers can be trained to do the screenings in the rural areas, while the audiologists manage the programme, check results, arrange referrals and collect statistics.

Through this, we aim to provide an opportunity to develop a framework for national screening, and this has a direct and massive bearing on educational outcomes in South Africa.