By Sanah Kayani, Audiologist at Boots Hearingcare
Lisa Robertson (Audiologist Boots Hearingcare) and I set off from cloudy London Heathrow to the Paris of the middle east, Beirut in Lebanon. I cannot begin to explain what an amazing journey it was!
It took 7 hours of flying to finally get to Beirut, where the sun was beaming and the sea was as blue as the sky. We were soon introduced to the follow-up phase of the Hear the World team. This team consisted of two more Audiologists: Cornelia Hahn (Geers, Germany) and Julien Crosnier (AuditionSanté, France), Elena Torresani (Director Hear the World Initiative, Switzerland) and the Lebanese partner Houri Hearing. Although we were all from across the globe, we shared one clear goal.
The first of many memorable days
Early morning on day one of the project we traveled on the busy roads of Beirut heading north to Ghazir. The partner Houri Hearing had allowed us to use their Ghazir clinic to carry out follow-ups for the Syrian children from the Northern parts of Lebanon. When the bus arrived from the refugee camps, the clinic became flooded with smiling children. It was now time to put down the Lebanese espresso and get to work. The hard hitting realization that we were neighboring Syria, where death and destruction was prominent, made the mission hold great clarity and inspiration. This pushed us to utilize a range of our audiological skills to rehabilitate and treat the less fortunate children.
As the week continued, we traveled out to IRAP (Institut de rééducation audio-phonétique), where everyone was extremely warm and welcoming. The wonderful lingering smell of sweet confectionery embraced the institute; chocolates, biscuits and decorative pieces were handmade in the school and distributed throughout Lebanon. I was mesmerized by the running of the school and the utter self-sufficiency it illustrated. I was surprised by how well equipped IRAP was and its ability to provide support to the partial residential deaf school to ensure its smooth running. Two main follow-up stations were set up for us. We were placed in sound proof booths, made solely for audiology work, where we would carry out follow-ups with the middle eastern children.
So much has happened since November 2017
The children we saw predominantly were doing extremely well since the fittings with the Phonak Sky hearing aids. Many children were quick to show off their newly learnt talent: the ability to speak. Since the fittings of the hearing aids during the November 2017 project, it hadn't been unnoticed by parents, teachers and the children themselves that they had begun developing words! And new sounds of speech. I was overwhelmed with the heartfelt praise and gratefulness exemplified by the parents and children.
At times we faced harrowing challenges, where we could not always correct all the children’s unfortunate problems, but we did try. Emotions rose very quickly when children presented broken aids. Hussein had been bullied for his inability to hear, his hearing aids were a reason he stood out from the “societal norm”. Hussein was a happy child and could not do without the hearing aids due to a severe hearing loss. However, as an 8 year old he wanted desperately to fit in. After fixing the aids and speaking to schools around Beirut, Hussein will now be enrolled in a Hearing Impaired school. Thank you Hear the World Foundation!
Personal wrap-up at the end of the week
As our time in Beirut came to an end, we finally acknowledged the sheer blessings we have accessible in our countries. From the safety of our children to the security of the education system, we are guaranteed assurance in the state system, we have full support for both the child and the parents with teachers of the deaf, therapists and special schools.
I hold this opportunity to share my sheer thanks to Houri Hearing, Hear the World Foundation and the European Audiologists for such an eye opening and awe striking opportunity which allowed me to have hands-on experience, and gave me a platform to utilize my skills to make a small but life-changing difference!