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Uganda's 'Wulira' App for hearing impaired patients

Uganda's 'Wulira' App for hearing impaired patients

Uganda

In Uganda, an app has been developed to assess hearing loss in at-risk patients. The ‘‘Wulira’‘ App, is an android mobile application that works on the principles of the pure tone audiometer.

‘‘Wulira’‘ App produces sounds of given frequencies and amplitudes ranging from 125 hertz to 8000 hertz and amplitudes of zero up to about 100 decibels. So every time you play a sound using the ‘‘Wulira’‘ App, the patient responds to you whether they’ve heard or not’‘, developer, Mumbere Joab told Africanews’ Ugandan Correspondent, Victoria Namutebi.

Developed by four graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University, the app is available on Google play and can be downloaded for free.

Wulira'' App produces sounds of given frequencies and amplitudes ranging from 125 hertz to 8000 hertz and amplitudes of zero up to about 100 decibels.

Developers say once a hearing assessment with the app on an android mobile phone is done, the results on the phone can be shared with an audiologist regardless of one’s location.

Josephine Likichoru is a senior audiologist at the Kampala audiology and speech center.

‘‘Everyone has a phone. Almost all the doctors have smart phones. So you can test the patient wherever you are, and the good thing with Wulira is that you can be able to send the results to the audiologist to interpret for you or to advise you, remotely, you don’t have to be where the patient is. So that’s the good thing with Wulira. It’s going to be able to help us to assess patients far away and we are able to advise and give treatment, even remotely’‘, she said.

But the invention is still under clinical validation.

‘‘So we are testing patients using another machine, and then Wulira and then we compare the results. So for now health centers are not using Wulira. There are just a few E.N.T doctors who are validating it, trying it out in their clinics’‘, Likichoru added.

Founder of the ‘‘Wulira’‘ App, Dr. Charles Batte talks about his motivation for the app.

‘‘During my Masters’ degree training in public health, I worked extensively with patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis at Mulago hospital. And for patients that have taken these drugs that cause hearing loss, the World Health Organization requires that they have monitoring done every month to assess their hearing ability. To do this you require a pure tone audiometer machine, you require an audiologist, you require a sound proof room. And one of the problems that our program has is inability to have all these services across the country. So we came up with the idea of developing a mobile phone application that can bring this service closer to the people; to the last mile that do not have access to hospitals like Mulago where they can have hearing testing done on  a monthly basis’‘, he said.

So far the app is only compatible with android phones and developers assured the next phase of development will make it adaptable to other devices.

Uganda’s Information and Communication Technology ministry and other partners have been hailed for the support in developing the app.

‘‘The Wulira App was selected as one of the successful innovations in the health sector and it was seen to have such importance in supporting patients with hearing loss, and we felt it would help to bridge the gap in quickly identifying some patients who are losing hearing. The ICT ministry has also supported the team by giving references, by giving connections, by connecting them to ministry of health and ensuring that this Wulira app is adopted in health centers like its currently happening at a pilot phase, and in future, we hope to work with the team to see that its deployed around, through Uganda and possibly exported to other markets’‘, said Kenneth Bagarukayo commissioner at Uganda’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.

The ‘‘Wulira App’‘ was selected among the top ten tech-start-ups at the 2018 world health summit.

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