A Hearing Clinic and Temporal Bone Laboratory were launched on 15th August 2023 at the Makerere University Hospital (MakHosp). The clinic and laboratory are operated by the Department of Ear, Nose, 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 manage persons with hearing impairments as well as support research in Uganda.
The Principal Investigator for the project Dr. Christopher Ndoleriire who also heads the Department of ENT at MakCHS thanked the partners who have supported the project since inception. These included Makerere Research and Innovation Fund (MakRIF), Austrian Development Agency, MED-EL, Professor Tom Roland Jr (NYU), Rotary Club of Kololo; and Hear His Voice Uganda.
He said, ‘all age groups can have hearing impairment(HI) however Children with HI face many challenges such as barriers in communication, discrimination, child labour, violence, etc. The challenges of HI do not enable these children to grow to their full potential. Thus their rights to education, health, interaction and play are hindered. This is due to the lack of knowledge and skills on how to screen and manage HI in these children. Therefore, there is a great need to screen, manage and empower children with HI so as to thrive through life.
The cost of not identifying and managing hearing impairment in children at an early age are very high both to the parents and to the government. It`s against this background that a research project linking four main hospitals to asses hearing impairment among children (0-59months) in Uganda was conceived and started.
The clinic which opened in October 2022 provides hearing screening and Hearing diagnostic services to the University and community at large. It also conducts and coordinates hearing impairment research in a bid to create a data base for hearing loss burden in Uganda. The clinic oversees hearing screening services in other 4 main hospitals namely; Kawempe National Referral Hospital, Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.
To-date, over 1000 children have been screened since April 2023 at the collaborating hospitals, 16 have visited Makerere University Hospital; 795 at Kawempe Hospital; 780 Masaka Regional Referral Hospital; 180 at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital; and 240 at 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 of referred cases.
In addition, a temporal bone dissection laboratory has been set up to help train graduate ENT students in surgical management of ear disease and hearing impairment. This facility at MakHosp is open to other ENT professionals to continually improve their skills at a reasonable fee.
Professor Josephat Byamugisha, Director-MakHosp explained that the clinic was opened in memory of Dr. Irwin Stewart from Canada who spearheaded improvement of hearing health in Africa, particularly Uganda. He recommended that babies` hearing should be checked within the first month of life to treat any defects early.
Professor Byamugisha thanked Makerere University management and the Ministry of Health for the support. He requested government to employ Audiologists, more speech and language therapists. Professor also added, ‘it is good to celebrate our successes; MakHosp is expanding and the addition of the hearing clinic is one of the new developments’. He advised that feedback from members that visit the hospital is welcome to inform future developments.
Alex Muhwezi, the president, Rotary Club-Kololo congratulated Makerere University, MakHosp and MakCHS on the launch of the hearing clinic. He thanked the partners for the contributions made to realise the milestone. He added, ‘I am proud of the contribution by Rotary to launch the facility. The clinic has opportunity to be a regional centre of excellence. Rotary contributed $150,000 towards renovation of the hearing clinic, installation of equipment in the temporal bone laboratory, training of specialists as well as outreach services.
Professor Annettee Nakimuli, Dean – School of Medicine, MakCHS represented the Principal, Professor Damalie Nakanjako and Vice Chancellor, Professor Barnabas Nawangwe. In her remarks, the Dean said ‘the Vice Chancellor and Principal send congratulations to MakHosp and partners on the new development’
Professor Nakimuli noted, ‘many partnerships don’t bear fruit and opening the hearing clinic is an opportunity for all partners here to pert yourselves on the back for the achievement, expressing that as a school we are proud of the ENT department for this milestone’. Teaching, learning, research and community service are a mandate of the university and following celebration of 100years of Makerere University, partnerships are a key feature as we embark on the next 100, she added.
‘For a long time, universities were ivory towers, but we must go to the communities to help solve challenges. Communities don’t only want a healthy life but also achieve their full potential’. The dean also commended the ENT department for getting good friends, noting that Uganda has about 60 specialists in this area and more are needed.
The Director-Public Health at MoH, Dr. Dan Kyabainze, represented the Director General, MoH. He emphasised that government appreciates support from the various partners. He congratulated Makerere University, MakHosp on the developments and pledged government support to the hearing clinic.