Hear Haiti: a vibrant start

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Haley B. Kurzawa is a Hearing Instrument Specialist at Connect Hearing USA. She is originally from Chicago and moved to Austin, Texas last year.

Day 2.

Hearing the rooster crow was such an unusual sound for a Chicago girl. I woke up to the beautiful sunshine, feeling surprisingly rested after a long day of travel. I was very eager to start the day with my awesome team.

“Breakfast is at 8 AM. Be ready to leave for Cite Soleil after eating,” said Cathy Jones.

I prepared for a day of many detours and potentially unplanned activities. I got excited for the busy day ahead. We planned to visit a school in Cite Soleil, the skilled artisans of the Metal Works community, and the non-profit Apparent Project.

We were all excited to get to see the Port-au-Prince that’s not shown on mainstream news. We piled into two vans and headed on our way.

“The roads in Haiti have potholes just as big as Chicago,” I excitedly exclaimed. I realized driving in Haiti wasn’t like driving in the USA. There are huge pot holes, lack of asphalt, no visible lanes, no traffic lights, and lots of pedestrians. People either walk, ride motorcycles, or take “tap-tap” which are colorful trucks.  Think of vibrant Uber rides. Continue reading “Hear Haiti: a vibrant start”

The Perils of Hearing Less in the Classroom

In another lifetime I was a middle-school teacher. It only lasted for two years, but at that time I thought it might be my career.

I didn’t wear hearing aids then. Of the many difficulties I faced teaching classes of teenagers, I think some of them did have their root in my hearing loss.

First of all, I couldn’t understand soft-spoken students, and often had to make them repeat themselves. Uncomfortable for me, and also for them, especially if they were shy. The accompanying snickers from the rest of the class were certainly not a positive thing for the class atmosphere or my relationship with them.

I also had trouble when students made low-voiced comments or “talked back” in such a way that everybody could hear but me. It does make it difficult to ensure classroom rules are followed when so much can go on under your threshold of perception.

At the time, I didn’t realise how “bad” my hearing was (I knew I had some hearing loss). I didn’t realise that my colleagues heard that much more, and therefore had more information at hand to help them manage the class. Not hearing well clearly was not my only shortcoming in teaching teenagers, but I probably blamed myself more than I should have for the difficulties rooted in “not hearing things”.

Continue reading “The Perils of Hearing Less in the Classroom”

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”

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.