According to the World Health Organization, 1.6 billion people worldwide suffer from hearing loss. Most of them can be prevented due to excessive noise, untreated ear infections and exposure to ototoxic chemicals. About half of young people are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to recreational noise. Timely monitoring can bring better results for patients with hearing loss. For example, it is estimated that 60% of children's hearing loss can be reduced through early detection and intervention. However, the rural population often lacks the experts and skills needed to diagnose the disease.
In the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published by AIP Press on behalf of the Acoustical Society of America, Samantha Kleindenst Robler from the University of Arkansas Medical Science University (UAMS) and her co-authors Laura Coco from San Diego State University and Mark Krumm from Kent State University discussed how digital health solutions can expand audiological services in clinical and research environments.
If not detected and treated, hearing loss will have significant lifelong consequences for those who rely on spoken language, and preventable hearing loss will have a negative impact on speech, communication, academic performance, career opportunities and quality of life. Audiological assessment through remote healthcare monitoring will allow patients to receive care at home or at the local clinic. The hearing test uses a wireless headset controlled by a mobile phone or laptop, rather than equipment in a soundproof room.
Digital health technology is multifunctional. In many aspects, it can meet the needs of patients. The real advantage is that it can better support a person's life and their needs by changing from a face-to-face, interview centered approach to a people-centered approach, so as to promote patient care to a new level. As a research tool, remote healthcare will enable scientists to collect more representative and decentralized hearing data without affecting the results. The remote healthcare monitoring technology can also be used to promote the prevention of permanent hearing loss by monitoring individuals exposed to excessive occupational noise or ototoxic drugs.
The UAMS team is currently expanding several audiological studies they have conducted in rural Alaska. Their mission is to narrow the gap between hearing health differences through large-scale cooperative research from equipment development to implementation. To ensure that everyone has equal access to hearing care no matter where they live, there is still a lot of work to do, and the evidence generated in hearing related clinical trials is strong and representative.
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