The Auburn University Audiology Outreach Program recently concluded its annual mission trip to Guatemala. First year doctoral students, Meaghan, Ali, Cyndey and Kelsey, and three audiologists, Dr. Kelli Watts, Dr. Bess Weeks and Dr. Sandra Clark-Lewis, spent five days fitting children with hearing aids donated by ReSound. The team traveled to three different schools in Guatemala City.
On the first day, the group screened 45 children, performed 11 full hearing evaluations and delivered hearing aids to give children at Las Rosas school. “All the children were just adorable,” said Cyndey. “They were all so cooperative and easy to test despite the language barrier. When we performed cerumen management (ear wax removal), they squeezed our hands tight and were troopers during the process. We all were able to gain experience making, boring and tubing earmolds, and we only broke a handful in the process!”
Cyndey says one of the sweetest moments of the day was when a little girl passed her hearing screening and her mother told her in Spanish to give Meaghan a kiss on the cheek. The mother was so grateful that her daughter passed the screening that she gave Meaghan a hug and kiss as well. “All the parents were very grateful. They all made sure to thank us and remind their children to thank us when they were leaving.”
On the second day, the group divided into two teams. Dr. Clark-Lewis, Cyndey and Meaghan went to Los Patitos, an elementary school for children ages six and under. They were able to screen 40 children before noon and the rest of the team at Las Rosas screened 23 children, performed full hearing evaluations, programmed hearing aids and made earmolds. They were able to identify two additional children with hearing losses and fit them both with hearing aids.
“When we returned to Las Rosas we received a visitor, Patricia de Arzu, former First Lady of Guatemala and wife of the current Mayor of Guatemala City,” said Meaghan. “We knew something was happening when a camera crew showed up to the school. Patricia was very appreciative and encouraging of our work with the children. She was also very generous, presenting our team with bracelets made by the mothers of the kids at the municipality schools and handmade Guatemalan purses. This was a special treat for all of us and we were honored to meet such an influential and respected woman.”
All in all, the group screened 109 kids and delivered more than 20 hearing aids in two days, before moving on the next day to spend three days at the School for the Deaf, a Guatemala City school specifically for children with severe to profound hearing loss.
“With tiny Guatemalan children coming out of their classrooms to greet us right when we arrived, we knew we were in for a treat at this school,” said Ali. “Laughter, tears, shrieks and sweet smiling faces from the kids and their parents filled the morning as these seven children were given the gift of hearing.”
“One of my favorite moments from the day was when we turned on four-year-old Kayla’s hearing aids for the first time. After saying ‘Hola Kayla!’ her face lit up and her eyes widened. She buried her face in her hands and hugged her mama. What a response to this new sense!”
Dr. Clark-Lewis who founded the program, was extremely impressed and grateful to the audiology students who were the “core” of the 2014 mission. She said, “They worked hard to be clinically prepared for this trip and it showed in the competence they demonstrated while in Guatemala. These students never put their personal needs above the needs of the children they were serving in spite of 12-hour workdays, very late dinners and sleep deprivation. I have no doubt that these young women will be an asset to the profession of Audiology.”