Play loud music and pay price later

Doctor Nomonde Mtshazo speaks about the functioning of the human ear with Sunday World during the interview at Dr S.K Matseke private hospital, Soweto.
Doctor Nomonde Mtshazo speaks about the functioning of the human ear with Sunday World during the interview at Dr S.K Matseke private hospital, Soweto.
Image: Ziphozonke Lushaba

World Hearing Day was observed on March 3 and audiologist and speech therapist Nomonde Mtshazo says many South Africans don't know what she does.

The head of healthy hearing in the African region, Mtshazo has made it her mission to educate locals, especially those in disadvantaged areas about hearing issues.

Mtshazo gloats that she was head-hunted to assist as a volunteer at the Special Olympics from 2004 until now.

She explains that unlike a medical ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist she plays a critical role in identifying hearing associated problems that affect communication skills.

Following in the footsteps of her parents, she always wanted to be in the medical fraternity.

Mtshazo moved from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng when she was four .

"My dad was disappointed that I wouldn't take over his practice. In my gap year, I travelled abroad and heard a woman speak passionately about speech therapy and I wanted to help people with hearing problems. I then enrolled at Wits," she says.

The 54-year-old qualified in the 1980s and worked at Baragwanath hospital and at the Alexander Health Care Clinic.

Today, she runs practices at SK Matseke Memorial Hospital in Diepkloof, Tshepo Themba Hospital in Dobsonville and at Botshelong Empilweni Private Hospital in Vosloorus.

She was concerned that she wouldn't see many patients but can now brag that she sees up to six patients a day. This is due to the careers we choose, which affects our hearing.

"I have so many youngsters in their 20s who work in call centres. The mouth and ear piece they are made to wear has no ventilation and so leads to recurrent middle ear infection, which affects hearing ability.

"It can lead to irreparable damage," she said.

She helped raise R100,000 by enlisting the help of Telkom on World Hearing Day.

"I told Telkom [that] phones also damage our ears, it needs to come on board," she laughs.

The mother of two has made it a rule that her children would not be allowed to wear headsets with loud music.

"The number of teenagers I see is alarming. As much as it's entertaining, it's unhealthy. I try to educate the youth when I do talks at schools."

She says her job entails much more than just examining ears.

She is passionate about screening newborns and assists parents with getting the best care so that children can flourish into adulthood.

"If we can't hear properly, it affects our confidence. Companies don't want to employ these people.

"Part of my job is to motivate for them and I've helped several secure permanent employment."

She says she also goes to rural areas to educate people about drinking during pregnancy and the importance of having clean hands.

"Kimberley, in my experience, has the highest rate of babies with alcohol foetal syndrome - 90% of the babies I saw. Their organs are so tiny that they are unable to hear." 

Audiologist has ear on ground  

Sadaksha Ramsaroop is a 26-year-old clinical audiologist who works for JJC Kruger Hearing Centre.

She runs one of their five practices at Northgate mall, Northriding, Johannesburg.

"The main reason for the location is to spread awareness that hearing loss affects people of all ages. Our location in a shopping centre gets people to think about their hearing," Ramsaroop said.

"We evaluate and treat hearing loss and balance disorders, and counsel in preventing such impairments from occurring. We work very closely with our ENT [ear, nose and throat] doctors for patients that have multiple risk factors affecting the hearing and balance to ensure that the most effective management is provided for them."

Ramsaroop says the inspiration to follow this career was her interest in the deaf community and providing therapy to deaf children.

She says it's imperative that individuals working in the industrial sector, the music industry, recreational gun users and the police force should seek audiology services.

She also warns that teenagers should employ the 60/60 rule when listening to music.

"Listen at 60% of the volume for a period of 60 minutes and give your ears a break. Wear protection devices like noise plugs or ear muffs if you work in a noisy environment and remember prevention is priority as many people take their hearing ability for granted and should also know that hearing loss is permanent and irreversible."  

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