The study demonstrates the validity of using synchronous telemedicine for conducting hearing assessments with the KUDUwave™ in a remote rural agricultural community without a sound booth. The KUDUwave™ uses insert earphones covered by circumaural ear cups (Ambidome) to attenuate noise. The Ambidome provides noise attenuation similar to a single-walled sound booth. Telemedicine offers unique opportunities for providing access to hearing healthcare services to underserved populations worldwide. However, it is important to validate the potential benefit that the KUDUwave™ could have to increase access. This study investigated the reliability and accuracy of synchronous KUDUwave™ audiometry in a rural agricultural community where there is limited access to audiological services.
Three test environments were used the validate the KUDUwave™ synchronous telemedicine use in a natural environment (Without booth).
- Booth environment: Test was conducted in a single-walled booth with the clinician and participant/s face-to-face in a hospital.
- KUDUwave™ without a soundbooth: This test was conducted with the clinician and participant/s face-to-face in the participants office on the farm.
- Tele-audiology configuration using the KUDUwave™: The test was conducted in the second environment (KUDUwave™ use in participants office on the farm) while the clinician or tester was in a remote location 1.2 KMs away from the patient. A teleaudiology facilitator from the local community and with no formal audiology training or tertiary education facilitated the participants during the test, while an audiologist (clinician) conducted the air conduction hearing assessment through videoconferencing (Skype™) and the wireless 3G Internet connection.
Test–retest threshold correspondence in the booth and natural environments (KUDUwave™) was within – 5 dB in 96.7% and 97.5% of comparisons. Threshold correspondence between the KUDUwave™ telemedicine compared with booth and natural environments were within – 5 dB in 82% and 85% of comparisons.
Results demonstrate KUDUwave™ telemedicine hearing assessments to be comparable to the current ‘‘gold standard.’’ These technologies make it possible for diagnostic hearing assessments to be included as part of a remote telemedicine kit and can give new opportunities in telemedicine support.