How Portable Audiometric Testing Is Helping My Community

We chat with young South African audiologist Tukiso Matlakala about helping his communities through audiometric testing with a Kuduwave portable audiometer.

At eMoyo, we have a word for describing audiologists who, rather than work from a practice at a fixed location, opt to go out and perform audiometric testing in their surrounding communities.

We call these inspirational hearing healthcare professionals Kudupreneurs.

One location-independent hearing test at a time, these groundbreaking audiologists are helping to revolutionise the audiometric testing model – and hearing healthcare as a whole – by making it accessible to patients who otherwise would not have had access to high-quality hearing healthcare.

Rather than wait for patients to visit them at their audiology practices, Kudupreneurs are choosing to take audiometric testing to their surrounding communities, offering their services to patients who otherwise would not have been able to access the professional care they require.

Hearing Healthcare, Anywhere

One such Kudupreneur is Tukiso Matlakala, a Johannesburg-based audiologist and speech therapist. We asked Tukiso to tell us more about himself, his career path and how his mobile audiometric testing service offering has been enhancing the lives of his patients. Tukiso also shared how he has benefitted professionally from having a mobile audiology practice – and using Kuduwave portable audiometers for audiometric testing, of course.

After completing his community service at Leratong Hospital in 2018, Tukiso started his career as an audiologist at Tembisa Hospital in 2019. In 2020, he took a position at Itumeleng LSEN School, a special needs education centre for mentally handicapped pupils in Westonaria, and also launched his private audiology practice.

Rather than setting up a traditional audiology practice at a fixed location, Tukiso opted to establish a private mobile audiology practice, with his trusty Kuduwave portable audiometers by his side (he has three in total!).

Johannesburg-based audiologist and speech therapist Tukiso Matlakala

Tell us more about where you studied and when you qualified as an audiologist?

I qualified at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University [Medunsa at the time] in 2017, and did my community service at Leratong Hospital in 2018. From there, I moved to Tembisa Hospital, where I worked as an audiologist from 2019 until 2020. As I am dually qualified as both audiologist and speech therapist, currently, I am employed as audiologist and speech therapist at a special needs school in Johannesburg. But I also have my own private mobile audiology practice.

What made you choose audiology as a career?

I was motivated to choose audiology as a career because there are a lot of people in my family who have genetic hearing loss from my one great-grandfather’s side. I wanted to help my family – and other people like them – who are affected by hearing loss.

Can you describe a typical work week?

Weekdays from 07:30 am until 2:30 pm I work at Itumeleng LSEN School in Westonaria as an audiologist and speech therapist. From 2:30 pm I work as a private mobile audiologist, doing audiometric testing in my communities. I do this from Monday to Friday every week, and I work until around 6 or 7 pm every weekday.

On Saturdays I usually work from 07:30 until 4 pm, again conducting audiometric testing in surrounding communities where my services are needed.

Can you tell us where you first came across the Kuduwave audiometer?

One of my lecturers at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University was using a Kuduwave. She told us about this portable diagnostic audiometer and showed us how it worked. I became very interested in this med-tech device, as we were used to carrying out audiometric testing using sound booths, which are fixed in one location. From there on, I did my own research, until I found a Kuduwave portable audiometer of my own.

Kuduwave portable audiometer
“My portable Kuduwave audiometer allows me to be highly mobile in my work.”

Would you say that knowing about the Kuduwave portable diagnostic audiometer influenced your decision to have a mobile audiology practice, instead of a traditional sound booth?

Yes, that would be correct. My portable Kuduwave audiometer allows me to be highly mobile in my work.

I actually can’t imagine doing audiometric testing with any other diagnostic audiometer. It really enables me to do a lot more home visits and help a lot more people.

As an audiologist, if you have your practice at a fixed location, you don’t get to see that many patients. If you want to help as many patients as possible, you have to go to them instead. And for that, you have to have equipment that is highly portable. So, as a hearing healthcare provider, the Kuduwave really empowers me to treat and help more patients than if my practice was at a fixed location.

There are various Kuduwave models available. Which Kuduwave model do you own, and why did you select this particular model?

I use the Kuduwave Pro portable audiometer. I love how effectively it masks sound, and how lightweight and portable it is. Actually, I’ve purchased three Kuduwaves for my practice to date. And I’ve purchased a fourth one for a friend!

Learn more about the Kuduwave Pro portable diagnostic audiometer.

Do you own more than one Kuduwave in order to test more than one patient at a time?

I have two assistants, so I give one of them one Kuduwave to test patients for me while I am using the other one. I am renting out my third Kuduwave to another clinician.

How would you say your Kuduwave audiometer enhances your audiology service offering?

There are so many benefits to using a Kuduwave audiometer for audiometric testing. The fact that it is so incredibly portable, that I can carry it around in my hands. Also, it allows me to do audiometric testing and diagnostic work in an extremely efficient way.

The fact that the earphones mask sound so effectively – they block external sound completely, so the earphones are like sound booths in and of themselves.

All of this saves me having to pay for a sound booth, or for access to one. That is another major advantage. So yes, having a Kuduwave definitely enhances my service offering to patients. It certainly makes my job a lot easier and it also makes my services more affordable.

In terms of accuracy, how confident are you that you can trust the test results from your Kuduwave?

I know that I can trust my Kuduwave’s test results. These devices are clinically validated and peer reviewed, with many published studies validating their accuracy and efficiency. This devices saves me so much time, especially when using the automated testing function. Of course, it’s very important to have your Kuduwave audiometer calibrated annually to ensure that test results remain accurate.

With regards to hearing healthcare, what is the most common issue you encounter when working in your community?

I remove a lot of earwax. I would say that is the most common hearing-related issue I encounter in my work. After that, presbycusis – age-related hearing loss in elderly patients. So, as a start, I always examine my patients using my Kuduscope otoscope-and-mini-endoscope-in-one. If I establish that the problem is earwax, I simply remove the wax and the patient’s hearing is back to normal again.

Can you tell us about an instance where your Kuduwave has enabled you to do something for a patient that you would not have been able to do if you had to make use of a traditional sound booth?

Sure. I had an elderly patient who was living in an old-age home, and his particular circumstances prevented him from going to a hospital for audiometric testing and treatment. His family called me and asked if I could come out to examine and test their grandfather. I visited the patient at the old-age home and tested his hearing with my Kuduwave. His family were so happy and appreciative, because going to the hospital for audiometric testing just wasn’t an option for him.

That entire experience was so incredibly rewarding. For patients who are very old and frail, or who live alone with no-one to take them for treatment, audiometric testing with a Kuduwave right where they are is such a wonderful solution. I was literally one phone call away from this patient and, with a Kuduwave, the testing process is so simple.

After audiometric testing, I took the patient’s ear-mould impressions and ordered his hearing aids. Now his hearing aids are fitted and he can hear once again. My patient’s quality of life has vastly improved, and this would not have been possible without a Kuduwave portable audiometer.

Find out what sets portable audiometry apart.

What is your experience of using the Kuduwave portable audiometer’s software user interface?

The Kuduwave’s software is very simple to use. I’ve never had any issues with it. It opens quickly, and it is very user friendly. Really, no problems at all.

Would you say that using a Kuduwave portable audiometer has made your services more affordable?

Yes, I would say that using a Kuduwave to conduct audiometric testing has made my services much more affordable to patients. This is because we require so much less equipment to carry out our work.

Find out how your practice can benefit from digital health.

As a Kuduwave user, how do you find eMoyo’s customer support service offering?

I’ve only experienced excellent service from eMoyo. When it comes to my Kuduwave’s annual calibration, it is always literally carried out in a day – or less. You get your calibrated device back really quickly, with a certificate of calibration from eMoyo. Then you can carry on with your audiometric testing and other work.

When it comes to audiometric testing, what would you say are currently the biggest barriers preventing access to treatment for those who need it?

The complaint I hear most often from patients is long waiting periods at public hospitals. Appointments are often scheduled only in a month’s time, or even later. The result is that patients often lose the motivation to go to hospital, or to go back for their follow-up appointments.

Generally speaking, for audiometric testing, going the public healthcare route is often a very long process. This can certainly cause patients to lose motivation.

If you had to name a favourite or top benefit of your Kuduwave audiometer, what would it be?

That’s a tough question – there are so many benefits to owning a Kuduwave!

One, I love how it masks out background noise – the earphones literally cling to patients’ ears. I also love the Kuduwave’s automatic testing function, because it does so much of the testing work for you. As a result, testing becomes so simple and so fast.

But for me, the masking or sound blocking functionality is really an incredible benefit. Also, portability. The Kuduwave is so light and space efficient, it’s just a great size for carrying it around from one location to the next.

It feels like there is a huge need for audiologists like yourself, who go out to patients, instead of them coming to you.

Yes, I would agree. There’s a huge need for quality hearing healthcare and audiometric testing in our communities. And there’s a lot of work to be done. As healthcare professionals, I feel we should be taking an active interest in how people are doing, and what their healthcare needs are.

If there are problems, we should be actively looking for solutions. Ultimately, the goal is to help our communities. In order to really achieve this, audiologists and healthcare workers need to reconsider whether there are more effective ways of carrying out our work, in order to help as many patients as possible.

Would you agree that there needs to be a change in mindset among hearing healthcare providers when it comes to audiometric testing and hearing healthcare in general?

Absolutely. I have an acquaintance, an audiologist with a traditional practice, who often complains that work is slow. He mentions that sometimes days go by without him seeing a patient. But he also admits that going out into communities to treat patients is more effort than he is willing to put in. So, definitely, a change in mindset is needed.

Conducting hearing tests during home visits will see to it that more patients receive the care they require a lot faster. However, this is not something that I – or anyone else – can do by myself.

Not one day goes by without me seeing and treating patients. I test their hearing, and I often take the impressions for their hearing aids during the same consultation. With a Kuduwave, the entire process just goes so much faster.

But yes, there’s a lot of need in our communities, and there’s a lot of work to be done. With a tool like the Kuduwave, we can help a lot more patients than we are currently doing. But the willingness to do so has to be there from our side as hearing healthcare professionals. And that requires a change in mindset.

Follow Johannesburg-based audiologist, speech therapist and Kudupreneur Tukiso Matlakala on Facebook and Instagram.

Find out more about the Kuduwave range of portable audiometers and eMoyo here.

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