Department of Speech-language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria

University of Pretoria partners with WHO

By Clint McLean

At the Ida Institute, we’re believers in the ability of partnerships to transform our world. It’s why we created the person-centered hearing network (PCHN) — a collaborative group of patient and professional organizations, universities, and other leaders focused on improving hearing care on a global scale.

Recently, one of our PCHN partners — the Department of Speech-language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria — became the first official World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center for ear and hearing health in Africa. The department is the largest audiology program of its kind in Africa, with a strong focus on research, collaboration, and service.

The WHO partners with countries, international organizations, civil society, foundations, research institutions, and people to respond to health challenges and improve the overall health of populations.

This collaboration will work towards the prevention of deafness and hearing loss in Africa by supporting the development and implementation of accessible ear and hearing services in Africa. Initiatives that the WHO and University of Pretoria are already working together on include: New ways to collect population data, community-based hearing screening, and training for primary ear and hearing care.

De Wet Swanepoel, an Ida Advisory Board member and professor from the Department of Speech-language Pathology and Audiology, has collaborated with the WHO on several projects already. His research was also instrumental in the development of the hearWHO smartphone screening app released by the WHO on World Hearing Day 2018. 

Swanepoel said, “With the timely release of the World Report on Hearing in 2021, this partnership strengthens our position to raise awareness at a national level of the importance of healthy hearing and accessible hearing care for all. The center provides a platform to collaborate with stakeholders and researchers across the continent towards shared priorities with the WHO, to not only raise awareness, but to develop and evaluate contextual service-delivery models for prevention and care.”