In sub-Saharan Africa, the prevalence of hearing loss is approximately four times that of developed regions (World Health Organization, 2017). This is hypothesized to be due to the high incidence of tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Both of these conditions necessitate the use of retroviral therapy and aminoglycosides, which are known to be ototoxic.
Ototoxicity monitoring is essential, especially in developing countries such as South Africa, as the country faces grave challenges with the increasing burden of disease. This increase has led to a large growth in the number of individuals with acquired hearing loss as a result of treatment that requires ototoxic medication.
It is important to implement an ototoxicity surveillance regimen to ensure that hearing and hearing loss in patients receiving ototoxic medication is monitored, with the goal to minimize the negative impact on quality of life. In developing countries, there are often strained budgets, limited health-care professionals and inadequate facilities for health care, including ototoxicity monitoring.
Tele-audiology is a method of audiological service provision that allows professionals to provide audiology services to individuals in remote locations. Tele-audiology can be synchronous or asynchronous, but both methods provide much-needed audiology services to underserved communities.
Peerbhay and colleagues (2022) performed a scoping review using keywords tele-audiology and ototoxicity monitoring. A total of 250 studies were initially identified; after applying inclusion criteria, two pairs of reviewers found that 17 articles were acceptable for the study. The researchers examined three key objectives regarding tele-audiology and ototoxicity monitoring: types of tele-audiology hardware and software, factors that influence the use of tele audiology, and gaps in knowledge surrounding the use of tele-audiology
Findings suggested that tele-audiology services for ototoxicity monitoring are more cost-effective, time efficient, and easily accessible than the traditional face-to-face methods of service delivery.
These services allow audiologists to render audiological intervention virtually to patients, thereby reducing the need for patients to travel to health-care facilities. However, several barriers were also documented, including lack of home internet for patients and low literacy rates for many patients.
Peerbhay N, Munsamy DR, Dlamini HP, Langa F, Paken J. (2022) The use of tele-audiology in ototoxicity monitoring: A scoping review. J Telemed Telecare 0(0):1-22. DOI: 10.1177/1357633X211068277.
World Health Organization. (2017) Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss and cost-effectiveness of interventions: a WHO report (accessed February 3, 2022).
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