Refugee children hear for the first time when ‘Hearing the Call’ arrives in Jordan

FEATURE — Intermountain Audiology staff joined a group of individuals that traveled halfway around the globe to open up a whole new world for children in Amman, Jordan, last month. Many of those children experienced sound for the very first time.

A young boy is fitted for a hearing aid device provided by volunteers including Justin Bateman and Rosie Barrick from St. George in April, 2017, Amman, Jordan | Photo courtesy of Rosie Barrick, St. George News

A team of 34 audiologists and volunteers from around the country traveled to Amman on a “Hearing the Call” mission to provide hearing aid devices and testing to Syrian and Palestinian children living in refugee camps along the West Bank.

The group included Justin Bateman, a board certified hearing instrument specialist with Intermountain Audiology, and Rosie Barrick of the Sound of Life Foundation, a Utah based nonprofit organization that provides assistance for audiology services for those who cannot afford them.

Through the group’s efforts 150 children were given hearing assessments and 110 of those children were given the gift of sound. For many of these children that sense was lacking from birth. For others the loss or damage to their ability to hear was caused by injury, Bateman said.

A child is fitted for a hearing aid device provided by volunteers including Justin Bateman and Rosie Barrick from St. George in April, 2017, Amman, Jordan | Photo courtesy of Rosie Barrick, St. George News

“There are quite a few of them in that particular region that have never heard sound,” he said, “while a fair number of these children have suffered severe or profound hearing loss that’s injury related, from bombings or gunfire.”

Most of the children treated were Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and for Barrick, it was more about caring for her community.

“We have a responsibility to give back, and to help those in our local community, and it’s just as important to care for these children in our global community.”

The team spent four “clinic days” working in makeshift clinics that were set up in houses or refugee centers located in small villages that dot the region. The group worked one day in each clinic. On the last day they split into two teams which enabled them to provide services to six clinics in total. This expanded the coverage area and increased the number of children treated.

“We had a full list of children at every clinic we went to,” Bateman said.

Each child went through a screening process and once that was completed a mold of the child’s ear was formed. Using the mold technicians created a custom-fitting hearing aid that was then placed in the child’s ear, followed by examination and testing for quality and fit.

“The process from start to finish took anywhere from 2 to 4 hours for each child, and for a few it was up to 6 hours,” Bateman said.

A child is fitted for a hearing aid device provided by volunteers including Justin Bateman and Rosie Barrick from St. George in April, 2017, Amman, Jordan | Photo courtesy of Rosie Barrick, St. George News

Children who have never experienced sound do not automatically know that what they are hearing is sound, he explained. They only know something is happening, but do not understand what is happening.

Hearing actually happens in the brain and the ears are just the mechanism that brings the sound to the brain for processing.

“So it’s up to the brain to organize the sound and the neurological restoration goes from there, and it takes time,” he said.

The Sound of Life Foundation, along with several other organizations, make two trips to the region annually. They are able to not only fit those children in need of hearing aid devices, but provide an opportunity to check the children that were fitted on previous trips.

This was the seventh “Hearing the Call” trip to the Middle East to date. Through the Foundation’s efforts thousands of people have been screened and hundreds fitted with the devices over the past several years, Barrick said.

These trips are coordinated and sponsored by several organizations, including Life For Relief and Development and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Efforts in Southern Utah

For many adults living in the U.S., including Southern Utah, audiology services can be difficult to obtain, particularly for low-income adults who are not insured, Barrick said.

So many go without and learn to adjust to life with either poor hearing or no hearing at all.

The Foundation’s purpose is two-fold; to provide audiology services and devices to individuals who need them here in the U.S. and to provide those same services to children in other countries through volunteer efforts, she said.

About Intermountain Audiology

Intermountain Audiology has provided hearing care in Southern Utah since 1984 when they opened their doors to four locations. Their mission is the same, which is to help patients reconnect with their loved ones, their activities, and their community through the gift of hearing. Thousands are able to live better lives as a result. For those who are unable to afford care or services the Sound of Life Foundation can help.

About Sound of Life Foundation

The Sound of Life Foundation is a nonprofit organization that assists senior Utah residents by providing high-quality hearing devices at little to no cost for qualifying patients. This enables these older members of the community to live fully engaged lives and continue to actively contribute in society. Since its creation in 2014, Sound of Life has provided hearing healthcare for over 100 patients.

“The vision of the Sound of Life Foundation is that all people should have the opportunity to enjoy the “Sounds of Life” around them. Our focus is on our Southern Utah community, but realized that we are also part of a global community and we want to help improve the lives of all we come in contact with, either here or around the world.”

About Life for Relief and Development

The Life For Relief and Development, launched in 1992, is a global humanitarian relief and development organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to people regardless of race, gender, religion and cultural background. The organization is in “Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations,” and is a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S. based non-governmental organizations that partner with agencies such as AmeriCares, UNICEF, Brother’s Brother Foundation and MedWish.

“Sometimes you forget why you do what you do,” Barrick said, “and this helps us to remember why we chose this, and helps us to give of ourselves freely.”

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