Audiology Students Reflect on their Experiences in El Salvador
January 09, 2020
“Imagine taking the trip of a lifetime. A trip that’ll give you an experience very few people in your position have. An opportunity that will open your eyes, give a gift, and help over a thousand people with hearing aids and provide them with access to sound. There is not a single adjective to describe what it means to be part of Starkey Hearing Foundation’s El Salvador Mission. We were there to make a difference and provide help, but in all of this I was the one rewarded with the gift of connecting with so many grateful hearts. Every person fit and every family met touched my soul.” These are the profound words of Brittany, one of seven Long Island Au. D. Consortium students on a two-day hearing mission in El Salvador where we served nearly 1,200 patients.
Brittany, along with her classmates, chronicled her experience and captured the emotions and exuberance of both patients and volunteers on this mission. She continues, “The first patient I fit was Alice. Alice and her family traveled two hours to San Salvador on her THIRD birthday. On my knees and on the side of her, I began saying "babababa" and after the third "ba" she turned to me immediately. Alice’s face was illuminated, and her jaw dropped! Her mother instantly looked away and began to cry. After being fit with two hearing aids, Alice’s mother expressed that she was concerned her daughter would never hear. Humming baba black sheep to Alice is a memory I could never forget.
Each person I fit with hearing aids told me how grateful they were. They thanked me for being there and caring enough to help them and for the opportunities that the hearing aids will give them. I will forever share how important the work of the Starkey Hearing Foundation is!”
Kristen, another audiology student shared her life-altering experience:
“I was very excited to be selected to join the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s mission trip to El Salvador. The experience exceeded my expectations in every way. The Starkey team involved made us all feel welcome and a part of the team from the moment we arrived. I will never forget my very first patient. It was an older woman who was accompanied by her daughter. I went through the steps that we had been taught from our trainings and was excited to put it into practice with the patient. My professors had explained what some of the reactions would be like, but to witness them firsthand was magical! The feeling I felt seeing how happy she was to hear with the hearing aids is one that will stay with me forever. The mother and her daughter were crying tears of joy, and as she grabbed my hand to thank me, I was flooded with emotion. I could not wait to continue to help the people of El Salvador to hear and every patient thereafter was an unbelievable connection. I came home with my heart full and will carry this experience with me always.”
Raissa El-Houayek had a similar experience during the hearing mission:
“My dream has turned into a reality to say the least. Having been a part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation El Salvador mission trip, changed my perspective on life completely! I will carry all the laughs, the tears, the smiles, and the blessings for the rest of my life. There are many moments that have made this mission trip so special. To name a few, looking at a mother with hope in her eyes when her daughter turned to a sound for the first time in her life, a lady hearing after ten years of being deprived and crying as soon as the hearing-aid battery door closed, and a gentleman who was now able to hear his newborn’s laughs. I would stop what I was doing for a few seconds and simply look around and take it all in. I will cherish all the tight hugs for the rest of my life. I will continue looking at pictures and reminding myself I have a purpose and I am on the right path. I will continue changing the lives of others as they have changed mine in return. Thank you, Starkey Hearing Foundation, for this truly unforgettable experience.”
Audiology student Joanne echoes the same sentiments:
“Going into this experience, I was both excited and nervous. Excited, because I knew it was going to be a new adventure, and I had the opportunity to help people; but also nervous, because I had no idea how receptive the patients would be to my help, and how I would be able to communicate with a language barrier. Although we had interpreters, I was still worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet the patients’ needs or that I wouldn’t understand what they needed. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
My most memorable patient was a profoundly deaf woman who communicated via sign language. This was a great challenge because I was already having difficulty with the Spanish language, let alone sign language. But once I fit her, the language barrier was completely torn down by her beaming smile. She lit up in that moment and I realized that nothing, not even a language barrier could stand in the way of my connection with her. We hugged, we cried and we both knew that this was special!
This opportunity offered to us by Starkey Hearing Foundation turned out to be the most humbling and greatest experience of my life, personally and professionally. Words can’t express what I have learned or how grateful I am to have had the best team to share my first mission with. I hope to get another opportunity like this in the near future.
Kristina, another future audiologist whose life was altered by the hearing mission, recounts:
“I was deeply humbled by the outpouring of love and appreciation from my patients. Some had long journeys, traveling countless hours from nearby countries seeking our help. Others had never heard their loved ones speak. Some children were nervous but anxiously hoped to hear the voice of their mother for the first time. Endless hugs, praise, and blessings from loved ones will always resonate in my mind. All the fears that I had prior to this experience were replaced with joy, fulfillment and triumph! I understood in a short amount of time the importance of human connection, kindness and compassion.
As someone once said, “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” Thank You, Starkey Hearing Foundation, for this unforgettable, life-changing opportunity. So The World May Hear, So El Salvador May Hear.”
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