April is Volunteer Appreciation Month. Within the hearing healthcare field, there are many professionals who generously give their time and expertise to help people with hearing loss – both nationally and internationally.
Julie Yeater, AuD. works at the Toledo Hospital providing a full range of audiologic services to both adults and children. Julie has a long history of volunteering to support children and adults with hearing loss throughout the Middle East. We approached her to share her story about why she volunteers and what she has learned along the way.
I was approached in 2015 to accompany a group of audiologists traveling to the Middle East on a hearing mission trip. We would be seeing hundreds of children in refugee camps around the country of Jordan for testing and dispensing of hearing aids. Entering this adventure, I had no pre-conceived notion of what to expect and little did I know, my trip would exceed any expectation I could have imagined.
Unfortunately, in Jordan, no organized infant hearing screening program exists.
On my first trip, I was armed with portable audiometers, testing toys for kids, and had no idea how I could possibly “help” on this mission trip. I found my niche the first day in testing the children, much like how we test kids in our US clinics. It quickly became evident that the degree of sensorineural hearing loss we encountered consistently fell within the severe to profound range. In the US, those children would likely have been considered cochlear implant candidates.
On my second trip to Jordan, in 2016, I was honored to be a guest speaker at the Cochlear Implant Seminar at Jordan University, where we were able to educate speech pathology and audiology student, as well as ENT residents, on the importance of identification and rehabilitation of hearing loss prior to six months of age, as well as the speech and language ramifications of late identification.
Late in 2016, I completed my 3rd trip to Jordan, visiting several refugee camps including a Syrian orphanage for children of the War.
We may have offered our expertise in diagnostics and rehabilitation, but it was the children of Jordan who repaid us in indescribable ways. Every family was excited for us to be there, we only wished we could help more children during our visits. Those trips brought new lifelong friendships and a renewed excitement that, with our profession, we can truly make a difference in the lives of people all over the world.
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