Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Laurie Daley is the territory manager for northern New England for Phonak US. She is recently married, loves to travel and is a huge Patriots fan.
I came on this trip fully expecting a life changing experience. What I didn’t expect was that the similarities between our worlds would affect me as much as the differences.
Earlier this week, the team agreed that we were here to work (and we have!). In addition to testing for hearing loss, fitting, and follow-up of the children at the Haiti Deaf Academy, we were compelled to do more than that, and we provided other services for other at-risk groups for hearing loss, as time permitted. One of these extra projects came when we were invited to do hearing screenings for students of The Respire Haiti Christian School.
I was honored to have the opportunity to visit Respire. This school has made a huge impact on so many children’s lives over the past few years. Hundreds of students are currently enrolled and the school, which is equipped with a medical center, dental office, surgical rooms, nurseries and general comprehensive care. Astoundingly, the absenteeism is virtually nonexistent at Respire. Education seems to be the key to empower these children and ultimately free them from poverty.
At 7 am “Haiti time” (approaching 7:30 am), the team piled into two vans for the one-hour drive to Gressier. On the top a mountain, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, stands the school. Megan Boudreaux founded Respire Haiti in January 2012. The students in this school, like those at Haiti Deaf Academy, are some of Haiti’s poorest inhabitants.
Along with a medical team from the United States, we showed up to the school today with the intention of providing hearing screenings for children in Pre-K to 3rd grade. In keeping with our Hear Haiti mission, we screened children to identify and treat those with hearing loss.
One child in particular, has been in a classroom for developmentally delayed children for most of his life, but after evaluating him for hearing loss, he will soon be fit will hearing aids and leave special education classes and resume his education in classes with his peers!
At the school, we set up stations with otoscopy (instruments to see inside of the ear), tympanometry and acoustic reflexes (to determine how the eardrum is functioning), otoacoustic emissions (testing the cellular function of the inner ear), conditioned play screening, diagnostic air/bone/live speech and even ABRs (to tests the amount of hearing). We also took Impressions for ear molds for children who will be fit with hearing aids. In addition to identifying those children with hearing loss, we successfully ruled out hearing loss as a cause of language or developmental delay in many children of concern.
While there have been many children whom I have been moved by on this trip, one little guy will stand out for a long time…
While I was waiting for one hearing screening, I could hear a child crying in a way that, no matter the native language spoken, always conveys the same thing—fear. He was five-years-old and completely inconsolable. There was no way we were getting a look into his ears! In order to make him more at ease with the equipment, I took him and the other children outside to a more relaxed environment. He watched as other children came over to investigate the machine and eventually got comfortable enough with it that he put the headphones on himself! Over the next 15-20 minutes, he and I finally established trust and he was able to be screened successfully. Fortunately, we found that he could hear perfectly and did not need any amplification assistance. The biggest lesson I took from this experience is that we are here to be thorough in finding (or not!) hearing loss while making everyone feel comfortable and loved.
Following our day on the mountain, we ended our day in celebration. We joined together to wish our fellow teammate, Carina, a happy birthday, singing the “Happy Birthday Song” in Spanish, English, Creole & American Sign Language (ASL)! This reminded me that our individuality & differences, as well as some fundamental similarities, truly connect us and help us to be the change.
Follow our journey here on Open Ears and on social media: