In July, students of mixed hearing abilities from across the country participated in an expedition into the Peruvian Amazon as part of the first ever Hear the World expedition.

Hear the World is a global initiative by Phonak, Stafa, Switzerland (with US headquarters in Warrenville, Ill).

The acoustical environment of the Peruvian rainforest is a complex listening environment exploding with life–where one’s ability to listen is increasingly magnified. For that reason, it was the perfect setting to educate students about the importance of hearing, the consequences of hearing loss, and the ever-growing need to break the stigma around hearing loss and those living with it.

Led by deaf-blind adventurer Bill Barkeley, for 10 days, students participated in a number of sound-related activities in the midst of this unique acoustical setting exploding with life (see video on Facebook).

Click here
to view an array of photos documenting the expedition.

From a hearing loss simulation experiment, to an underwater sound exercise where two students heard underwater sounds for the first time in their lives, the group, both those with and without hearing loss, returned home with a new-found understanding of the role that sound and hearing plays in our lives and the importance of educating their own communities about hearing loss prevention.

The expedition team was as follows:

Team Leaders

  • Bill Barkeley: Expedition mentor; One of 15,000 people in the United States and 100,000 in the world with Usher’s Syndrome (Type 2), the leading cause of deaf-blindness in the world. Barkley recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and served as a leader on the Amazon trip to continue his mission of educating students on not letting physical disabilities stand in their way.
  • Katy Warner: Expedition instructor; acoustic technician with the Natural Sounds Program of the US National Park Service.

Students (with/without Hearing Loss)

  • Jentry Taylor, 22: Oklahoma City college student; was diagnosed with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss at 18 months old and has since been fitted with two cochlear implants.
  • Gary Quenzer, 17: Newton, Pa high school senior; wears two hearing aids and was diagnosed with hearing loss as a child.
  • Zoe Quenzer, 18: New York City native and high school senior; legally deaf and wears one cochlear implant.
  • Michelle Tremblay, 17: Calgary, Alberta, Canada, native, who says that learning how others overcome challenges in their lives will help her overcome her own and help others do the same.
  • Brian Barkeley, 20: As Bill Barkeley’s son, Brian was raised understanding hearing loss and its impact. He served as a mediator of sorts between both groups.

[Source: Phonak]