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Hearing health on wheels: the drive for accessible audiology care


With the mobile clinics deployed, NUH delivers critical care well within earshot of residents in the western region of Singapore.
Issue 3 | December 2023

Hearing health on wheels: the drive for accessible audiology care

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In Singapore, the silent struggle with hearing loss reflects a global issue of recognising and addressing it. According to a survey, 76% of Singaporeans with hearing difficulties prefer not to seek treatment, mistaking the sporadic nature of their condition as manageable without professional intervention. Furthermore, the misconception that hearing aids are ineffective exacerbates this, as many discontinue their use after unsatisfactory initial experiences.

Project Silver Screen, a national health-screening program for seniors, estimates a striking prevalence of hearing loss among the group - with 93% of those over 60 experiencing it to varying degrees. The consequences of leaving the condition untreated can be profound. Untreated hearing loss can spiral into diminished life quality and elevated risks of cognitive disorders.

Against this backdrop, the National University Hospital (NUH) is proactively expanding its audiology services, improving access for residents in the western region of Singapore.

Decentralising to bridge the gap

Led by Senior Principal Audiologist Dr Jenny Loo, the audiology team from the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, NUH, has expanded its community reach through a new satellite hearing clinic at Jurong Medical Centre and three mobile audiology clinics at polyclinics in Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang and Queenstown. This expansion is a strategic push to make audiology services more accessible for residents, especially seniors who require specialised care and often find distance a barrier to seeking treatment.

These mobile clinics represent an innovative solution to the challenge of accessibility. A small, adept team operates the clinics, which come equipped with a suite of diagnostic tools, including audiometers for hearing tests, hearing-aid analysers for fitting and tympanometers for eardrum examinations. The equipment, portable by design, ensures that comprehensive hearing services are readily available where they are most needed. Furthermore, the system enabling the clinics sidesteps the need for traditional soundproofed rooms, offering flexibility that allows the hearing services to adapt to various environments.

"In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the need to make our services more accessible," says Dr Loo. "These mobile clinics help us bring the same quality of care we offer in our stationary clinic to those who might not otherwise come to us."

Amplifying access and awareness

The mobile clinics also serve as an extension of NUH's commitment to community health. They also free up resources at NUH's main clinic, allowing the hospital to focus on patients with more severe and complex hearing difficulties.

The presence of these clinics also plays a critical role in catalysing the dialogue around hearing health. Stationed in the community, the clinics act as a visible reminder of the health resources available and the importance of early detection and treatment, while reducing the societal stigma associated with hearing care.

Associate Professor Loh Woei Shyang, Head & Senior Consultant, Department of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, NUH, emphasises the broader vision underpinning the clinics, "These mobile units extend beyond providing hearing assessment and treatment; they encourage the community to recognise and prioritise hearing health. Our goal is to create a positive effect throughout the community - from increasing individual health awareness to fostering a healthier ageing population in Singapore."

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National University Health System
  • National University Hospital
  • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
  • Alexandra Hospital
  • Jurong Community Hospital
  • National University Polyclinics
  • Jurong Medical Centre
  • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
  • National University Heart Centre, Singapore
  • National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
  • NUHS Diagnostics
  • NUHS Pharmacy
  • Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine
  • Faculty of Dentistry
  • Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health
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