Original Research

The hearing screening experiences and practices of primary health care nurses: Indications for referral based on high-risk factors and community views about hearing loss

Nasim B. Khan, Lavanithum Joseph, Miriam Adhikari
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 10, No 1 | a1848 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v10i1.1848 | © 2018 NASIM BANU KHAN, Lavanithum Joseph, Miriam Adhikari | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 June 2018 | Published: 10 October 2018

About the author(s)

Nasim B. Khan, Discipline of Audiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Lavanithum Joseph, Discipline of Audiology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Miriam Adhikari, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: In South Africa, primary health care is the first point of contact with the health system for at least 85% of the population, yet early hearing detection and intervention continues to be elusive in these settings. Nurses at community level may, therefore, be missing an opportunity to identify prelingual infants with hearing losses and alter their developmental trajectory.

Aim: To determine primary health care nurses’ experiences, practices and beliefs regarding hearing loss in infants.

Setting: The study was conducted in the eThekwini District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: A descriptive survey was used with quantitative methods of analysis. Fourteen primary health care clinics from the eThekwini district were selected, from which 75 nurses participated by completing a self-administered questionnaire.

Results: At least one-third of primary health care nurses had never screened a child for hearing loss, and most clinics did not have access to basic hearing screening equipment or materials. Only 49% of nurses had access to an otoscope, while 31% used the Road to Health Development screener to check for hearing loss. None of the clinics had access to an otoacoustic emission screener nor the Swart questionnaire. Although nurses reported that they would refer to audiology services for some of the risk factors, as indicated on the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) 2007 list, they were less likely to refer if the child was in a neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) longer than five days, had neurodegenerative disorders, meningitis, hyperbilirubinaemia requiring blood transfusion or were undergoing chemotherapy. Less than a third of nurses always referred if the child displayed additional non-JCIH risk factors or those pertinent to the South African context. Approximately 38% reported that communities believed that hearing loss could be because of some form of spiritual or supernatural causes.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that hearing screening and referral practices at primary health care clinics need to be strengthened. Nurses need to be capacitated to conduct basic screening, make necessary referrals, provide information to caregivers and understand community beliefs about hearing loss in order to counsel caregivers appropriately and facilitate the process of early hearing detection and intervention.


hearing screening; risk factors; community views


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Crossref Citations

1. EHDI Services should be accessible! caregivers’ expectations of EHDI services in South Africa
Ntsako P. Maluleke, Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Amisha Kanji
Speech, Language and Hearing  vol: 27  issue: 1  first page: 43  year: 2024  
doi: 10.1080/2050571X.2023.2241219