Starkey Hearing Foundation mission in Armenia

Starkey Hearing Foundation had a special mission in Armenia last month, when it gave the gift of hearing to 1806 patients from various parts of Armenia.

Details of mission

  • 1806 people fitted with hearing aids in a 3 day period
  • Young Armenian volunteers, many still studying at university, were the mission translators.
  • Starkey have an aftercare program set up in Armenia
  • There are 3 phases in each Hearing mission.

Miss Ailbhe Lennon, a qualified Hearing Aid Audiologist from Ireland was one of the volunteers in the mission and kindly provided her touching story below.

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Hello,

I am a recently qualified Hearing Aid Audiologist. I am working in Advance Hearing BLACKROCK. Last month, I had the honour and privilege to be a part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation mission in Armenia. The foundation gives the gift of hearing to underprivileged people. I was the only Irish volunteer on this mission.  I cannot put into words how incredible this hearing mission was. We fitted hearing aids to 1,806 patients in three days. We were in the beautiful city of Yerevan during a very special time. We helped celebrate the city’s 2,799th birthday!

According to the World Health Organization, more than 360 million people have disabling hearing loss, with the greatest prevalence living in developing countries. Unfortunately, less than three percent of these individuals can afford hearing aids or even have access to the care they need. Starkey foundation are working tirelessly to change this by building strong partnerships, empowering local teams and expanding their three-phase Community-Based Hearing HealthCare model around the world.

In many countries, the entire attention of the health system is focused on potentially fatal diseases, and the problem of hearing loss does not receive proper attention. Of course, hearing loss cannot kill a person, however it can negatively impact the quality of a person’s life and prevent one from communicating with other people.

Let’s get back to the hearing mission..

The first day we were really just trying to get in the swing of things. The atmosphere among the team was fantastic, you could feel the excitement in the air. The fewest patients were scheduled to come that day, but the hundreds of seats were filled. These patients were transported to us by buses mainly from northern regions of Armenia. Some had travelled over six hours. For the first hour or so we learned how to get in the groove of things.

On day one and two there was a brief news segment that aired about the mission and we ended up having hundreds of walk-in patients. William Austin, the founder of the foundation made sure that absolutely no one was turned away. Spare and stock earmoulds were used for these patients, until they can get their own custom moulds made in aftercare.

One of my most memorable fittings occurred on Day 2. Myself and my fitting partner from the US, Lorie, fitted an entire family with hearing aids. First, we fit the son, who was about 6 years old. Next was his mother, father, and grandmother. The whole family had significant hearing loss and did not use any speech- they all used sign language to communicate.

After our hearing work was done, we had a day to tour and explore the city. The most touching part of our tour was visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex. This spectacular open style monument has an eternal flame in the centre. The monument symbolises an open wound.  Our team placed fresh flowers around the flame to pay our respects to those who lost their lives. One of the sponsors of our trip, Arman Kavoukjian, shared stories from his grandmother and one of his patients in California. There was not a dry eye in the group. Such a horrific and tragic history, which is not recognised by all. This gave us all so much more meaning to the work we had done in days prior. These patients are survivors, it is in their genes to be fighters, and it was very touching that we were able to help them in this small way.

Being part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation mission to Armenia a few weeks ago was truly a once in a lifetime experience.  The bonds created with the 60+ mission volunteers and over 1800 patients is hard to describe.  I can confidently say that being part of William F. Austin’s 50 year legacy is a source of pride for anyone that volunteers and becomes a Starkey Hearing Angel.

As a Starkey Hearing Foundation volunteer, the responsibilities to help deliver the WFA® Community Based Hearing HealthCare Program Model is exhilarating.  These teams travel around the world to train, execute, and monitor the WFA® Community Based Hearing HealthCare Program.

Under the guidance of an experienced Starkey Hearing foundation team, all volunteers are focused on ONE GOAL, to strive to ensure that the people we help have the support they need to reach their full potential, reconnect back to life and become self-determinant citizens of our world.

William F. Austin the founder and Tani Austin the co-founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation were also with us. They were inspiring. Mr. Austin believes that hearing is a vehicle to reflect caring and to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and communities. “Alone we can’t do much. Together we can change the world.”-W.F Austin.

I had the privilege of being a part of this Starkey Hearing mission which took place in Armenia. The most incredible feeling in the world, giving the gift of Hearing. I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of this Starkey Hearing Foundation mission.

SO THE WORLD MAY HEAR

We were given consent by each patient for every photo that was taken.

Details of mission

  • We fitted 1806 people with hearing aids in a 3 day period
  • We had a young volunteer team, many still studying at university, but their language skills were fantastic. They were our translators
  • Starkey have an aftercare program set up in Armenia
  • There are 3 phases in each Hearing mission.
  • I attended phase 2.Phase 2
  • Fit hearing aids and custom earmolds on qualified hearing aid candidates.
  • Counsel and train hearing aid recipients, teachers, student ambassadors and patients on how to care for and operate hearing aids.
  • Provide aftercare information to hearing aid recipients on where to go and who to contact for follow-up services.
  • Select and train local program teams to execute ongoing program activities.

Mission days

  • It was the most incredible experience, so humbling.
  • We had all age groups, from a 10 month old baby to people in their 100’s.
  • It is very hard to pick but one of the most rewarding patient for me was a 7 year old boy I fitted hearing aids to. His face lit up when we turned the hearing aids on.
  • We were bringing the gift of hearing
  • William F. Austin the founder and Tani Austin the co-founder of starkey hearing foundation were also with us. They were inspiring. He believes that hearing is a vehicle to reflect caring and to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and communities. His famous line is also “Alone we can’t do much. Together we can change the world.”

I am not sure if you would like to use this for your own website or newsletters but I just wanted to express how heart warming the Armenian people were. I left a part of my heart in Armenia. The people were extremely welcoming and  it was an honour to be a part of this incredible hearing mission.

Many thanks,

Miss. Ailbhe Lennon

Hearing Aid Audiologist