Tembisa hearing and vision screening project shows value of social entrepreneurship

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The hearX Group is midway through a project to provide community-based hearing and vision screening to the large community in Tembisa and surrounds. It aims to benefit 5 000 preschool and school children by August 2019, by identifying those who have hearing or vision challenges, and then linking them to the appropriate follow-up care as needed.

The hearX Group is a social enterprise that has pioneered the use of clinical smartphone hearing test solutions to overcome the challenge of providing low-cost screening for disadvantaged communities. Its solution, hearScreen, uses a mobile app to provide a clinically valid screening using pure tone audiometry. It has subsequently launched other products – hearZA, mHealth Studio, hearTest, hearDigits, hearKiosk – and is also partnering with PeekVision, a UK-based social enterprise aimed at bringing better vision and health to everybody.

Social enterprises, like the hearX Group and PeekVision, aim primarily to achieve social goals while also operating like a business, in order to increase their sustainability. The hearX Group received a grant from the Diageo Empowerment Trust South Africa in 2017 to begin the Tembisa project, which is being undertaken in partnership with the Pheme Group and the Sihlangene ECD Forum, both local non-governmental organisations.

“Our Tembisa project is part of our wider aim of empowering individuals with hearing and vision impairments in lower income communities using innovative technology,” says Nic Klopper, hearX Group’s founder. “Working at the local early childhood development (ECD) centres and primary schools, our three screeners are using mobile devices to test children for both hearing and vision quality. Children who need further diagnostic hearing and vision assessment are linked to the appropriate follow-up care, and provided with hearing aids and/or spectacles, where indicated.”


To date 3 799 children from Tembisa and Ivory Park have been screened since October 2017, so the team is well on its way to meeting the goal of 5 000 children before the project ends in August next year. It is anticipated that in excess of 6 000 children will actually be reached. Thus far, approximately 2.5 percent of the children screened require follow-ups related to hearing, and 5 percent for vision.


“Social entrepreneurs bring innovative, business-like thinking to bear on social problems. They can make a huge impact on society, as the work that hearX is doing shows,” says Sinethemba Mafanya, Manager Diageo Empowerment Trust SA. “When we conceptualised how the Trust would make maximum impact on South Africa, we realised that social entrepreneurs must be part of the mix—these are the people who change society for the better, and they deserve our support.”


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