Hi there, let me introduce myself. My name is Ellen, but my friends call me Ellie. I live in Norfolk, UK. Some of you may know me as Deafie Blogger. I’m 18 years old, and I’ve been profoundly deaf since birth. I wear two digital Phonak hearing aids, which allow me to communicate through lip-reading and speech. I don’t use British Sign Language, although I’d love to learn one day. I’m a typical teenager, and I love being sociable, spending time with family and friends, travelling and swimming.
Of course, I’m proud to be deaf, because I wouldn’t have achieved what I have, if I was hearing. I would just be ordinary. I am passionate about deaf awareness, no doubt about it. Over the past year I’ve really gotten interested in blogging and deaf culture, and I’m hoping that I can enthuse and encourage other deaf teenagers to prove that they can achieve anything they dream of. I love writing about everyday situations in the life of a deaf person, with the aim of making others feel as if they’re not alone.
Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Armenia with theHear The World Foundation. Nazan Yakar and Christiane Schubert, who volunteered for the project, are both Audiologists with Phonak Germany. This is their account of the Hear Armenia 2015 project visit.
Our journey to Armenia began in May 2015, when Nazan and I first talked with the Hear the World Foundation staff about the option to volunteer for a project. Although there was no clear opportunity at the time, just a few weeks later we were lucky enough to be presented with a chance to support the Hear the World project in Armenia. We decided very quickly to accept the offer, as we’re excited about the opportunities to gain practical experiences in the pediatric field, aside from our daily business.
Slowly, we started to learn more about our tasks and about the Hear the World program in Armenia. We had several calls with former volunteers and staff who visited the Arabkir Hospital, where we would work. Together we brainstormed we would support the hospital best this year.
Before we left, Nazan and I collected several items from our pediatric products to bring along, such as Leo plush toys and books, Junior kit clips, cleaning tools and battery testers. Hear the World Foundation, as part of their yearly grant, also provided a variety of hearing instruments and Roger devices.
In a few months, we were ready to split the supplies, pack up our bags and head to Armenia!
Although it was only our first full day, it was one of the most exhausting and rewarding days I’ve ever had.
We went for a drive today, and it was an adventure in itself! The roads themselves are dirt, with potholes – craters, actually – sometimes full of water, sometimes not. There are no lines on the road, no traffic lights, and no stop signs. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rules or regulations about driving, either. And sometimes chickens run in front of the cars. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before, or likely will again.
We started our morning by going to MetalWorks – this amazing little artist community where the majority of the crafts were made with scrap metal. They were unbelievably beautiful, and the artists were the most talented group of people who took so much pride in their work. I even bought several pieces to take home.
From there, we went somewhere that actually had me in complete awe. There’s a small school on the outskirts of Cité Soleil. From the outside of Anacias’ Capva School, there is a guarded metal gate. The inside has a medical center on the right, and a school on the left. Inside the school, there is one room for the smaller children, and four pods for the older ones. They were just finishing classes as we arrived, and many of them ran outside when they saw our vans pull in. We were greeted with more smiles and waves and happiness than I ever have been. I truly felt like a celebrity.
My hearing has been stable since birth, and chances are it will probably stay that way until age-related hearing loss catches up with me. I was fitted reasonably late in life, at 38 (two years ago) and so my interest for audiology and hearing loss in general is quite fresh. I’m a bit of a geek, so I did my homework when I was fitted, but hearing loss wasn’t really a big part of my life growing up (I considered it a detail), and as my loss is mild to medium I clearly approach things from another angle than people with severe hearing loss or profound deafness. Hence the variety of contributors that we are currently getting in touch with for this blog.
I’m aware the field of hearing loss/audiology is fraught with occasions to say things the wrong way, so I hope you’ll forgive me (and gently let me know) if I blunder into an issue with big uninformed boots. I’ll do my best not to, of course!