By Mark Kawalya
Two new health installations were opened on August 15, 2023, at the Makerere University Hospital (MakHosp). A hearing clinic and a Temporal bone laboratory are the new additions and will be operated by the Department of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT), Head and Neck Surgery, School of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS). The clinic which is the first to be established in a public hospital—will treat patients with hearing problems and promote local research.
Dr. Christopher Ndoleriire, the project’s principal investigator and head of the ENT Department at MakCHS, extended thanks to the entities that have helped the research since its inception. These organizations included the Rotary Club of Kololo, Makerere Research and Innovation Fund (MakRIF), MED-EL, Professor Tom Roland Jr. from NYU, the Austrian Development Agency, and Hear His Voice Uganda.
According to Dr. Ndoleriire, people from all age groups can have hearing impairments (HI), but children with (HI) experience various difficulties, including impediments to communication, discrimination, child labor, assault, etc. These children are unable to reach their full potential due to the difficulties associated with hearing impairments.
As a result, their rights to play, health, interaction, and education are restricted. This is a result of the children’s lack of screening and management abilities for HI. Therefore, in order for children with hearing impairments to succeed in life, there is a huge need to screen, manage, and empower them. For both parents and the government, the cost of failing to detect and treat hearing impairment in children at a young age is very significant.
In light of this, a research project linking four major hospitals to evaluate hearing impairment in Ugandan children (0–59 months) was conceived and launched. The clinic was opened in October 2022 and offers hearing diagnostic and screening services to the university and the general public. In an effort to compile data on the prevalence of hearing loss in Uganda, the clinic also conducts and oversees research on hearing impairment. The medical facility is responsible for overseeing the hearing screening programs at the following four major hospitals: Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, Kawempe National Referral Hospital, Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, and Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.
Since April 2023, over 2,000 children have been screened at the participating facilities; 16 of those children visited Makerere University Hospital, 795 went to Kawempe Hospital, 780 went to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, and 180 went to Gulu Regional Referral Hospital; and 240 went to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital. All the patient data at the hospitals is interlinked and stored in a central system at MakHosp for tracking and follow-up on referred cases.