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At the heart of surgical care needs to be the education and training of staff, particularly in the low-income and/or resource-poor setting. This is the primary means by which self-sufficiency and sustainability will ultimately be achieved. As such, training and education should be integrated into any surgical programme that is undertaken. Numerous resources are available to help provide such a goal, and an open approach to novel, inexpensive training methods is likely to be helpful in this type of setting.
The need for appropriately trained audiologists in low-income countries is well recognised and clearly goes beyond providing support for ear surgery. However, where ear surgery is being undertaken, it is vital to have audiology services established in order to correctly assess patients requiring surgery, and to be able to assess and manage outcomes of surgery. The training requirements of the two specialties are therefore intimately linked.
This article highlights various methods, resources and considerations, for both otolaryngology and audiology training, which should prove a useful resource to those undertaking and organising such education, and to those staff members receiving it.
Hearing loss is a leading contributor to the global burden of disease, with more than 80 per cent of affected persons residing in low- and middle-income countries, typically where hearing health services are unavailable.
This article discusses the challenges to hearing care in remote and resource-limited settings, and describes recommended service delivery models, taking personnel and equipment requirements into consideration. The paper also considers the novel roles of telemedicine approaches in these contexts for improving access to preventative care. Finally, two case studies illustrate the challenges and strategies for service provision in remote and underserved settings.
Hearing loss can present at birth or be acquired as a result of illness, middle-ear disease, injury, age, overuse of certain medications, and/or induced by exposure to damaging noise levels. There are serious short-term consequences for people living with hearing impairment, including the effects on language acquisition, education, employment and overall wellbeing. There are also complex long-term implications.
This review aimed to present some of the leading causes of ear disease and hearing loss globally, and to identify their impact at both an individual and societal level.
This article attempts to highlight the challenges and possibilities for hearing healthcare through technology and aural rehabilitation in a resource-constrained setting, using South Africa as an example.
Results and conclusion
The authors argue that it is possible to enhance service delivery by using free resources and maximising the limited existing resources. In order to provide a sustainable hearing healthcare service in developing countries, it is pertinent to understand the context where the services are needed, and not just adopt an approach developed for a different context. Audiologists in such settings need to employ strategies to develop context-specific tools, and adapt existing tools to serve the needs of the local population. Some examples, although not exhaustive, are provided in the article.
The successful provision of middle-ear surgery requires appropriate anaesthesia. This may take the form of local or general anaesthesia; both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Local anaesthesia is simple to administer and does not require the additional personnel required for general anaesthesia. In the low-resource setting, it can provide a very safe and effective means of allowing middle-ear surgery to be successfully completed. However, some middle-ear surgery is too complex to consider performing under local anaesthesia and here general anaesthesia will be required.
This article highlights considerations for performing middle-ear surgery in a safe manner when the available resources may be more limited than those expected in high-income settings. There are situations where local anaesthesia with sedation may prove a useful compromise of the two techniques.
There is poor availability of ear and hearing services globally, because of a lack of infrastructure, funding, equipment and appropriately trained personnel. When deciding upon delivery of ear and hearing services, an approach based upon community assessment is advocated, with subsequent asset mapping and acquisition.
Some of the challenges to delivery of care in resource-constrained or remote environments are acknowledged, with discussion of several existing models of service delivery, and their advantages and disadvantages. Public health and telehealth are also mentioned. This article may assist those trying to set up new programmes in ear and hearing health.
Surgery for chronic suppurative otitis media performed in low- and middle-income countries creates specific challenges. This paper describes the equipment and a variety of techniques that we find best suited to these conditions. These have been used over many years in remote areas of Nepal.
Results and conclusion
Extensive chronic suppurative otitis media is frequently encountered, with limited pre-operative investigation or treatment possible. Techniques learnt in better-resourced settings with good follow up need to be modified. The paper describes surgical methods suitable for resource-poor conditions, with rationales. These include methods of tympanoplasty for subtotal wet perforations, hearing reconstruction in wet ears and open cavities, large aural polyps, and canal wall down mastoidectomy with cavity obliteration. Various types of autologous ossiculoplasty are described in detail for use in the absence of prostheses. The following topics are discussed: decision-making for surgery on wet or best hearing ears, children, bilateral surgery, working with local anaesthesia, and obtaining adequate consent in this environment.
Important ear problems can affect the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Globally, the greatest burden of disease is due to ear conditions that are associated with otorrhoea and hearing loss.
This study reviewed the literature on the prevention and treatment of common ear conditions that are most relevant to settings with high rates of ear disease and limited resources. The grading of recommendations assessment, development and evaluation (‘GRADE’) approach was utilised to assess interventions.
Accurate diagnosis of ear disease is challenging. Much of the preventable burden of ear disease is associated with otitis media. Nine otitis media interventions for which there is moderate to high certainty of effect were identified. While most interventions only provide modest benefit, the impact of treatment is more substantial in children with acute otitis media with perforation and chronic suppurative otitis media.
Disease prevention through good hygiene practices, breastfeeding, reducing smoke exposure, immunisation and limiting noise exposure is recommended. Children with acute otitis media with perforation, chronic suppurative otitis media, complications of otitis media, and significant hearing loss should be prioritised for medical treatment.