According to World Bank Group statistics, Malawi’s GNI per capita in 2016 was $320, with one in two people considered “poor” in rural areas, according to World Bank analysis. For a long time, people with hearing loss had no point of contact for audiological care, meaning many people lived in silence and isolation. EarsInc changed this when it established the country’s first audiological clinic—an achievement that was supported by the Hear the World Foundation. After many years of development work, the clinic can now be handed over to a local management team. Founded in 2006 by Sonova, a provider of hearing solutions, the Hear the World Foundation supports disadvantaged people with hearing loss around the world and gets involved in hearing loss prevention. The foundation focuses particularly on projects for children with hearing loss, enabling them to develop to their fullest potential.
A portion of the foreign aid that Malawi receives includes the treatment of hearing loss, which has numerous causes, from untreated otitis media, overdoses of malaria medication, noise-induced hearing loss, and cases of ototoxicity and hearing loss connected to the HIV virus.
During its years of partnership with EarsInc, the Hear the World Foundation has played a crucial role in tackling this problem by setting up the ABC Hearing Clinic and training center in Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. The clinic, whose grand opening was celebrated in 2013, was, at the time, the country’s first audiological clinic. It has all the modern equipment required to accurately diagnose hearing loss and professionally-fit hearing aids. Earpieces can be manufactured on-site in its own laboratory.
Treatment in the most remote areas too
The clinic’s young and highly-motivated team also regularly travel across the whole country. They visit schools, clinics, and even refugee camps, treating those patients who cannot get to the clinic in Lilongwe and would not have access to audiological care were it not for these visits. The Hear the World Foundation supports these activities by providing an audio trailer—a bus with all the necessary fitting equipment and two audiology booths.
Edgar’s Story—new hope
Edgar suffered from malaria when he was two years old. Although he thankfully made a recovery, his treatment with the malaria drug Quinine was not without consequences. When Edgar started school, he could barely follow lessons and his parents noticed that he often did not respond to his name being called. In the end, it was Edgar’s grandfather, John, who suspected hearing problems and accompanied him to the ABC Hearing Clinic, where he was diagnosed with profound hearing loss.
Although his grandfather was happy to have finally found the cause of Edgar’s problems, he also knew that the family could not afford hearing aids. The family was overjoyed when they found out they could get hearing aids from the Hear the World Foundation! The joy of having the hearing aids fitted was even greater; Edgar immediately began to laugh, overwhelmed by the new world of sounds that had been opened up to him. .
Establishing hearing screenings for newborns
Another milestone was reached in August 2017, when representatives of the Hear the World Foundation visited the project and conducted hearing tests on newborn babies for the first time in Lilongwe’s largest clinic. The Hear the World Foundation provided the necessary equipment and ensured the staff were properly trained.
“Our goal is to identify hearing impaired babies as early as possible so that they effective intervention can start quickly,” said Ora Buerkli, member of the Hear the World Foundation Board. “This is an important milestone for audiological care in Malawi.”
A clinic run by Malawians for Malawians
Training local experts is crucial to ensuring high-quality and sustainable audiological care in Malawi. Audiologists have therefore been receiving training at the ABC Hearing Clinic since 2014. The Hear the World Foundation also gives two ABC students the opportunity to study for a master’s in audiology at the University of Manchester in England. Thanks to this targeted development work during several years, the former Australian management team can now hand over the reins to a local management team for continued progress. Hear the World will continue to provide support in the form of funding, equipment, and expertise.
Source: Hear the World Foundation
Images/Video: Hear the World Foundation