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Pairing Clinical Learning with Community Practicum

February 12, 2018

During the month of November, the Foundation spent more than three weeks fitting about 5,000 patients across the Philippines from Manila in the north to Davao in the south.

How important is the community-based hearing healthcare model to the Philippines? Consider this: 1.8 million babies are born in the Philippines each year. Of those, more than one-third are born outside of a hospital or in a geographically isolated and disadvantaged area without access to ear screenings or hearing tests. These areas are isolated due to distance, weather conditions and transportation difficulties or socio-economic factors such as high poverty incidence and communities in or recovering from situation of crisis or armed conflict.

What’s more, on average, one baby is born with profound hearing loss every three hours. That’s why two of the largest universities in the country – the University of the Philippines (UP) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) – have partnered with Starkey Hearing Foundation to strengthen the country’s community-based model that trains and certifies hearing screeners and accredits hearing centers.

“There is no way we can expect all newborns to have access to the hearing screenings and hearing centers they need to get properly tested for a hearing loss,” said Dr. Charlotte Chiong, director of the Philippine National Ear Institute and Newborn Hearing Screening Reference Centre at the University of the Philippines in Manila. “We are excited about the community-based hearing program that Starkey Hearing Foundation provides because it ties in neatly with our community-based methodology. We want to make services accessible to all.” For its part, UST opened the WFA Hearing Sciences Laboratory and officially launched the audiology technician certificate program, which includes teaching students the WFA® Community-Based Hearing HealthCare Model. During the mission in Manila, audiology students from both UP and UST volunteered as fitters or counselors.

Dr. Norberto Martinez, chairperson of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at UST, said it is important for clinical audiology students to learn the community-based techniques. “Students need to work at a grassroots level,” Martinez said. “This is an opportunity for students to marry the community-based model with the clinical-based fitting. We are training students in the field to help communities become self-sufficient and self-sustainable.” For second-year student Zyra Via M. Cervatos, the mission was a great experience working in the field.

“In the beginning I was unsure what I was doing because it is different to what I am used to,” she said. “But when I see people respond with smiles, all of my doubts stop because even though it is not as specific, I can see patients benefitting. It is better to hear something than nothing at all. It was helpful for me to see what realities are like in a community-based setting.” In addition to our mission days in Manila, the team also served communities in Tarlac, Palawan, Cebu and Davao.

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