Hearing Care in the New Normal


The focus in the New Normal has shifted significantly to preventive measures in healthcare by way of early assessments to solve potential health issues. This also positively impacts affordability and gives a boost to self- care measures. The industry is being helped in this by advances in technology which are being used to save lives. Ganesh Prasad MD & CEO GenWorks says "Our focus is to provide such technology to every physician across India and build awareness about these solutions". Gen-Works Health is a Wipro GE invested company with a direct presence in 27 states and 120 locations. GenWorks was born to create accessible and affordable care in all 635 districts of India where access to healthcare technology and training are minimal.

In association with The Week, Gen-Works is bringing out a series about innovative solutions to Healthcare that are transforming lives and altering perceptions about healthcare. Human beings tend to ignore what cannot be seen and unfortunately hearing impairment cannot be viewed or discerned easily. WHO statistics collated in 2018 show that the prevalence of hearing impairment (HI) in India is around 6.3% (63 million people suffering from significant auditory loss). According to the global burden of disease census 2013, hearing loss has been ranked as the fifth leading cause of years lived with disability which is higher than many other chronic diseases such asdiabetes, dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With increasing noise pollution, ototoxic drugs and ototoxic chemicals the incidence of old age deafness is on increase. The WHO estimates 360 million individuals in the world have disabling hearing loss. Hearing loss due to noise is preventable but not reversible and with increased life expectancy the burden of the aging deaf will increase alarmingly with no possible solution. Preventive measures need to be implemented to change this huge emerging liability and economic loss to the nation.

The reason for the dismal condition of the auditory health in India is due to causes such as poor screening during birth (neonatal screening), lack of universal practices according to set guidelines, equipment related short comings, lack of infra structure and low priority to HI related prevention. The auditory function is tested l argely by the o bjectivemethod where, screening is performed by otoacoustic emissions (OAE) or automated auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing. OAE is technically easier and faster to perform. The OAE is limited in efficacy due to its high false positive rate in the first 24 hours of life and a high cross infection rate caused due to re using of the probes. Added to that are the high cost of the probes and the frequent breakdown of the instrument. Moreover, the late onset of hearing impairment in India is very high due to lack of awareness and follow up by parents after the first reports. The accessibility in rural India gets worse due to lack of trained medics and inadequate infrastructure.

In view of these challenges, GenWorks, in line with its mission to realise affordable solutions across care areas, is set to launch hearing healthcare solutions soon.

It is launching the Koalys solution, specifically the Koalys connected hearing solutions that features fresh and innovative capabilities which overcome traditional hearing care barriers to widen accessibility, increase affordability, and provide better patient experiences. By delivering digital, mobile, remote and collaborative hearing evaluations, Koalys offers ground breaking advantages for ENT physicians, audiology professionals, medical practioners, healthcare providers and patients alike. The solutions are easy to handle and can be used anywhere with a smart phone, a tablet or a computer and calibrated headsets. Cloud based computing and data handling makes for efficient follow up. The biggest draw in the solutions is the Koalya Connect that facilitates remote screening with its state of art tele audiology solution. This will help widen the scope of screening, reduce costs and improve overall care.

In its endeavour to empower healthcare professionals to deliver better medical facilities and diagnostics, GenWorks is also launching the Natus solutions that offer services from hearing and balance, Newborn care and Neuro. A range of their globally tested and acclaimed products like Madsen, Aurical, ICS, Otoscan and Bio-logic will be introduced in the country with the aim of bringing hearing assessments, fitting systems, screening, balance assessment and the necessary software available to all those physicians, audiologists, healthcare professionals and patients who need them to mitigate the current hearing impairment conditions.

Otoscan streamlines the process of producing customized in-the ear pieces such as ear moulds and hearing aids. Novel technology transforms images of the ear into 3D digital files that are uploaded to Otocloud, a cloud-based service for immediate use in the production of custom products. Doctors and patients alike can save time and money, secure digital records for easy storage and retrieval, ensure a better fit and a cleaner procedure.

Audiology needs innovation in India, but it is saddled with challenges like lack of skilled professionals and the inability to recognize the challenges to hearing health as an area of concern. With the government’s impetus to healthcare and tele health services, the time is ripe to switch to tele practices in Hearing Healthcare. Solutions from world leaders in audio health like Natus and Koalys are welcome at this juncture when discrepancies in healthcare provision across the country need to be bridged. The equitable distribution of these products will serve the aging population well in both rural and urban areas and will decrease the disease burden of hearing impairment. The key is to emulate face to face interactions over mobile phones or internet connections to reach out to the thousands in need of efficient and cost- effective diagnosis, treatment and follow up.

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