Original Research

Help-seeking journey to accessing audiology services in a peri-urban community in South Africa

Thobekile K. Mtimkulu, Katijah Khoza-Shangase
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 71, No 1 | a1002 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v71i1.1002 | © 2024 Thobekile Kutloano Mtimkulu, Katijah Khoza-Shangase | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 July 2023 | Published: 20 March 2024

About the author(s)

Thobekile K. Mtimkulu, Department of Audiology, Faculty of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Department of Audiology, Faculty of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Hearing impairment is an invisible disability affecting one in five people globally. Its ability to affect participation in activities of daily living means that it requires prompt identification and intervention.

Objective: This article aims to define the process of accessing audiologists from the onset of symptoms for adults with hearing impairment in a peri-urban community in South Africa.

Method: Twenty-three participants were recruited through purposive sampling from an audiology department of a public hospital. Semi-structured interviews were conducted using an interview guide, and data were mapped according to the participants’ responses from the onset of ear and hearing symptoms to the point of audiologist consultation for analysis.

Results: Seventeen (74%) participants had long journeys to accessing the audiologist after seeking help from multiple providers, with those with short journeys (26%) being referred mostly by public healthcare providers. Despite participants being from one peri-urban community, their journeys were influenced by socio-economics, health illiteracy and other structural factors. Finally, Ear-Nose-Throat specialists linked participants with audiology services.

Conclusion: Accessing audiology services is a complex process in some contexts. The disparities in the social environment, lifestyle factors and pluralistic healthcare models influence access to audiologists. Healthcare providers must take cognisance of the journeys of adults with hearing impairment in their clinical interventions. Universal health coverage, in the form of the planned National Health Insurance (NHI) for all South African citizens, will play an important role in addressing the societal inequalities in accessing healthcare. Factors leading to long journeys should be addressed to facilitate early intervention.

Contribution: The study raises implications for the planned NHI in South Africa, suggesting that universal health coverage could play a vital role in addressing societal inequalities in accessing healthcare, including audiology services.


hearing impairment; audiology; help-seeking; access; context; peri-urban; South Africa

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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