Hear Haiti: Similarities hundreds of miles from home

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.

Day 5:

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.

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Hear Haiti: A beautiful arrival in LaPlaine

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Laura Gifford is an Audiologist and Senior Account Executive at Unitron. Her favorite sound is the opening note of a Duran Duran song.

Day 1:

Up and off to the Nashville Airport at 5 am. After having a day to prepare for the trip (physically and emotionally) I was finally getting excited about leaving.

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“Can you really work as a hearing care professional with your bad hearing?”

This is the question that some friends of mine have asked me when we were talking about my job. De facto, this is not a completely fallacious train of thought. There was a time in the past when I was wondering the same: particularly around my A levels, which, as they say, open all the doors to working life. “Really? For everybody?” were my thoughts.

At that time, I was attending a regular school and could perfectly manage my congenitally profound hearing loss in both ears by simply sitting in the first or second row in the classroom. Moreover, I always had terrific, attentive teachers and friends around me for support if necessary. Things then became more challenging when I had to think about my upcoming working life.

Suddenly, I became aware of my handicap and as a consequence, I was wondering which professions I would be able to take up with my hearing impairment.

I want to give you an idea of what my hearing loss means. With hearing aids, I perceive sounds as you would perceive a pixelated and blurred picture, in which you can recognise the shape and the gender of the person but not the details like the pattern of the pullover, for example. Enough to be able to cope with it. Continue reading ““Can you really work as a hearing care professional with your bad hearing?””

Listening to Josef: A hearing aid wearer we can all relate with

As a social media community manager, I get to talk to a lot of people about their hearing loss. It’s been amazing to hear people’s stories – whether it’s a mom sharing an Instagram video from the first time her child’s hearing aids turned on, or a post about how new technologies are allowing a hearing aid wearer to enjoy sounds in situations they never before thought possible.

While most of my interactions have been virtual, the raw emotions are still there. I still feel a closeness with anyone whom I can answer a question for or connect them with our community of people facing similar hearing situations.

A few weeks ago, however, I had the opportunity to go offline and connect with a Phonak user in person, during filming for the new Phonak Virto V custom hearing aid testimonial video.

When I first met Josef, I was immediately warmed by his presence. His friendly demeanor and grandfatherly characteristics makes him someone you could sit down with for hours and listen to the stories he could share from his 81 years of life.

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Teen aims to make Californian city more hearing loss-friendly

Imagine a world where every newly constructed building would include accommodations for those with hearing loss, including acoustically-friendly designs, captioning and the latest hearing assistive technology.

While it seems like a lofty goal, one 16-year-old from California is encouraging his community to do just that.

Johnny Butchko knows too well what it’s like to not be able to understand people in public spaces.

“Every day that I am in school I have difficulty hearing in the halls, the cafeteria and the courtyards, because there is a lot of background noise,” he said.

Johnny was born severe-to-profoundly deaf. Equipped with Phonak Naida Q 50 UP hearing aids, he uses an FM system and captioning in the classroom, and a caption phone at home, but in public spaces, the feeling of being lost in translation is all too common.

So, he decided to do something about it.

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Phonak U 2015: Shaping Minds

When I came upon this quote by American author William Deresiewicz a few months ago, I thought it represented the intent of Phonak U well:

The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.

That statement resonates even more strongly with me after bearing witness to the nearly 100 minds — not careers — being built at the 11th annual Phonak University held earlier this month at our US headquarters.

So, what is Phonak U? It is an educational program that aspires to supplement the contemporary clinical training of today’s Audiology student through participation in didactic lectures, hands-on clinical workshops and case studies, giving the students the opportunity to learn directly from the best. And of course, we also hope that Phonak U allows students to network with fellow students and established professionals. Continue reading “Phonak U 2015: Shaping Minds”

FDA Social Media Guidelines: How We Comply at Phonak


Just last month the FDA released their latest Internet and Social Media Guidance for Pharma and Med-tech companies. If you haven’t read it yet, have a look here.

With the rise and use of social media across all industries, Med-Tech was bound to adopt social media at some point, especially given the prevalence of customer usage and relatively cheap way of reaching customers and/or offering customer service via electronic means. The introduction of this document points out that its purpose is to illustrate the agency’s current thinking regarding communication of benefits and risks through social and online media. The hearing aid industry generally does not fall under the exact guidelines as indicated in the latest draft, however the overall suggestions and illustration of what the FDA lays out is obviously food for thought for any health care organization marketing to customers online.

In the U.S. the FDA generally recognizes two types of labeling; that which is required labeling (think approval labeling) and the second which is promotional labeling (subsequent marketing materials/labeling). They recommend considering the following when promoting products on social media and online mediums:

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US Audiology Students in Zambia

Would you believe that for the whole of Zambia, there is only one audiologist? You can imagine that for students from the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) of Purdue University in the US, spending two weeks in the field on an exchange programme in Zambia must be quite an adventure. An opportunity to see healthcare in a completely different context, to gain clinical experience in a setting where their actions have meaning, in addition to the life experience every exchange programme is bound to provide.

In zambia at work with screenings

I discovered their programme though the blog set up by their professor. The blog is a very lively of their trip, with lots of anecdotes and information on what they did there, from the preparation classes before their departure to a complete account of their last work day in Zambia. Go and read it and look at the photos!

I wrote to them to see if they would be interested in contributing an article for Open Ears. Two of the students, Breanne and Andrea, sent me this overview of the programme and what it had meant to them.

Graduate and undergraduate students at Purdue University have the opportunity to participate in the speech, language, and hearing sciences (SLHS) in Zambia study abroad program. This past May a group of 12 students traveled to Lusaka, Zambia to learn about the culture and provide speech and hearing screenings. We had the opportunity to meet numerous professionals at a variety of facilities to learn about the healthcare system and the services for children with disabilities in Zambia.

This year, we received a donation of hearing aids from Phonak and were able to bring these to Zambia to fit as needed. At our main partnership location, Beit Cure Hospital, we fit a hearing aid on a girl who was about 11 years old as well as an older adult. We programmed each hearing aid for their individual hearing loss and made an instant ear mold. Using instant ear mold materials is much more efficient and is used very frequently in Zambia.

Both of these patients were so thankful and we hope the follow-up goes well. The 11-year-old girl is doing very well in school and we hope that her new hearing aid will help to decrease her listening effort and enable her to make even greater progress. The adult we fit told us that she had walked to Beit Cure Hospital, which took about an hour for her to reach us. Transportation is a struggle for those in need of healthcare in Zambia and this woman walked an hour to avoid paying for the bus. She was so thankful and said “God bless you for your help” to everyone involved in the appointment, making it a very emotional appointment. She is very excited to try her new hearing aid at church and plans to continue to follow-up at Beit Cure Hospital as needed.

Working in the audiology department at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia was a little different from the experiences we were used to at the teaching clinic within Purdue University. Everything was very fast paced and we worked alongside an ENT, which was a new experience for many of the students. Zambia has one audiologist and several audio technicians and nurses who do remarkable work. They make instant ear molds, counsel patients and answer questions, remove cerumen and foreign bodies from the ears, and many other tasks related to the ears and hearing. The teamwork we witnessed was amazing. Everyone collaborates as needed to ensure his or her patients receive the best possible care.

Zambia SLHS group photo

This was a very unique experience and we are so fortunate that this is offered through Purdue University. This was the second class of students to go to Zambia and the first time we were able to bring hearing aids to fit (thanks to Phonak for their donation!). Hopefully the program will continue and many students have the opportunity to participate in this program. We learned so much more than what we provided.

I think it’s important to remember that hearing care professionals work in very different contexts all over the world. I hope we’ll have more posts here in the coming months which go beyond Europe and the US!

Photos from the SHLS in Zambia blog.

The Future May Not Be All About Technology

The world we live in is bursting with new and exciting technology. As an audiologist I am astonished by the technological achievements that are implemented into today’s hearing aids, while other times I feel constricted and limited. How can this be? I can get into my car, connect to a “smart system”, browse my music and pictures, ask the system for directions by simply talking out loud; the possibilities are endless. Why then aren’t we farther along in hearing aid technology? Why isn’t there a proper “smart” hearing aid? Would we even want one if it existed?

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Accepting Silence

As I ride the train every morning, I am reminded of what quiet and/or silence really is. That brief moment when you can hear a pin drop in a packed train car, when someone rustling an umbrella or opening a bag catches your attention because it is a harsh invader in the heavy fog of silence. Everyone seems tired, there aren’t any jovial conversations being had — just the undeniable silence that leaves only the rhythmic steel wheels churning along the rails. When did silence become so thick?

On the train

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