Rationale and feasibility of a combined rapid assessment of avoidable blindness and hearing loss protocol

16 Apr 2021

PURPOSE : This study has two main objectives: 1) to assess the value of combining the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness (RAAB) and the recently developed rapid assessment of hearing loss (RAHL) based on existing population-based data from Cameroon and India; 2) to test the feasibility of a combined RAAB-RAHL protocol. METHODS : A secondary data analysis of population-based disability surveys in India and Cameroon (in 2013–2014) was conducted, focussing on people aged 50+. Hearing impairment (HI) was defined as pure tone average of 41dB (better ear).Visual impairment (VI) was defined as presenting visual acuity of <6/18 (better eye). The relationship between HI and VI was examined. The feasibility of a combined RAAB-RAHL survey was assessed within a RAHL conducted among adults aged 50+ in Malawi in 2018. Outcomes included: time taken, costs, number of people examined in a day, and qualitative feedback from participants and field teams. RESULTS : The prevalence of combined VI and HI among people aged 50+ was 4.4% (95% confidence interval (CI) 3.0, 6.4) in India and 4.8% (95%CI 3.0, 8.0) in Cameroon. Among participants with VI, approximately a third in India (29.3%) and Cameroon (35.1%) also had HI. A quarter of participants in India (25.4%) and Cameroon (26.9%) who had HI also had VI. In Malawi, the total time taken to complete both RAAB and RAHL assessments was approximately 27 minutes per participant. It was feasible to complete 30 participants per day for a team of four people. The estimated cost of a combined RAAB-RAHL approach in comparison to two separate impairment surveys is up to 37% less depending on the method of combination. CONCLUSION : The substantial overlap between VI and HI supports a combined rapid survey of the two impairments. The pilot study of a combined RAAB-RAHL survey demonstrates feasibility and lower cost compared to conducting two standalone impairment surveys. A combined RAAB-RAHL approach could maximize limited resources to increase prevalence data for both vision and hearing impairment.