Audiology Odyssey—In Pictures Between the two of them, University of Tennessee audiologists Kelly Yeager and Susie Robertson have traveled to Jamaica 14 times to volunteer in its schools. The relationships they have forged with children there keep them coming back. Yeager and Robertson work through the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD), ... World Beat
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World Beat  |   March 01, 2012
Audiology Odyssey—In Pictures
Author Notes
  • Kelly R. Yeager, AuD, CCC-A, is clinical associate professor in audiology at the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9 (Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Children). Contact her at Kyeager@uthsc.edu.
    Kelly R. Yeager, AuD, CCC-A, is clinical associate professor in audiology at the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9 (Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Children). Contact her at Kyeager@uthsc.edu.×
  • Susie Robertson, MA, CCC-A, is a clinical audiologist and teacher for the hearing impaired. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Contact her at vrobert1@uthsc.edu.
    Susie Robertson, MA, CCC-A, is a clinical audiologist and teacher for the hearing impaired. She is a PhD candidate in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Contact her at vrobert1@uthsc.edu.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / World Beat
World Beat   |   March 01, 2012
Audiology Odyssey—In Pictures
The ASHA Leader, March 2012, Vol. 17, 19. doi:10.1044/leader.WB.17032012.19
The ASHA Leader, March 2012, Vol. 17, 19. doi:10.1044/leader.WB.17032012.19
Between the two of them, University of Tennessee audiologists Kelly Yeager and Susie Robertson have traveled to Jamaica 14 times to volunteer in its schools. The relationships they have forged with children there keep them coming back.
Yeager and Robertson work through the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD), which opened in 1958 with eight students. Today it operates three K-12 schools for 250 children (ages 5-20) who are deaf, as well as a village for families. Funded mainly by U.S. churches, CCCD provides education, medical care, and a chance to live independently.

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Meet Paris. Pictured here with Yeager, Paris, 6, has eyes that are different colors and she is deaf-characteristics of Waardenburg syndrome, a common inherited disorder in Jamaica. Paris is one of several students who live at CCCD’s Knockpatrick School in Mandeville. Yeager and Robertson describe Paris, who moved to Knockpatrick at age 3, as “a smart girl who does well in school.” Her parents are also deaf and her brother is hearing.

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Robertson, a clinical audiologist and teacher of children who are deaf and hard of hearing, got involved with CCCD through the Tennessee-based Hearing and Speech Foundation’s Jamaica Mission Project in 2000. The Hearing and Speech Foundation partners with CCCD and, through private donations, sends teams of audiologists to Jamaica to provide audiological services and hearing aids to CCCD children. Robertson has led audiologists on 11 trips to the Jamaican schools, including three trips with audiologists from the University of Tennessee. She is traveling to Jamaica twice this year.

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This is the Knockpatrick campus in Mandeville. The oldest CCCD campus, it employs more than 25 adults who are deaf and provides education, medical care, and a chance to live independently. Volunteers from U.S. churches provide funding and staffing for CCCD schools. The Hearing and Speech Foundation became involved with CCCD in 1999, when foundation founder John Berry launched the Jamaica Mission Project. CCCD volunteer Bill Parsons had approached Berry about the CCCD students’ lack of amplification. Through private donations, the project sends work teams of audiologists to CCCD each year to provide audiological services and hearing aids to CCCD children to help them hear and develop speech and language skills.

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In Jamaica, it is common for a child’s hearing impairment to be identified at age 6, 7, or even 12. Compared with the United States, the country has a higher incidence of diseases that threaten hearing, such as maternal rubella and meningitis, as well as genetic syndromes such as Waardenburg syndrome, which affects Paris, seen here with University of Tennessee AuD student Beth Galloway. Trained hearing and speech professionals are scarce. Jamaica has one otolaryngologist for every 300,000 people and has few audiologists and audiometric technicians. Transportation to audiology centers is often unaffordable and many parents are unable to acquire or maintain a hearing aid for their children. Although several CCCD children would be candidates for cochlear implants, the closest surgeons are in Miami and Cuba, making CIs unobtainable.

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Sign language has been the primary mode of communication in CCCD schools, even though the degree of hearing loss among CCCD students in any given class can vary from mild to profound. Amplification is a major focus of audiologists’ mission visits, allowing many children to access spoken language through their residual hearing. Today, increasing numbers of CCCD children are improving their spoken language skills. For the first time, five CCCD students enrolled at a community college in the 2009-2010 school year.

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The audiology work is usually conducted in two trips each year. The first trip includes teaching children and staff how to care for and use hearing aids. The team provides in-service training to staff on the importance of auditory training and the positive effects of being able to hear. Clinicians also conduct hearing evaluations, as Yeager and University of Tennessee associate professor Deborah von Hapsburg are doing here. Referrals to physicians are few, as funds for medical assistance are limited. Often, audiologists need to teach children to raise a hand to a sound or tone because they have never had access to these types of sounds.

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On the first trip, audiologists collect earmold impressions from children who can potentially benefit from amplification, such as Yeager is doing with this Knockpatrick student. Younger children observe the process on older children to help allay any fears they may have. The children soon realize they need not be afraid-that getting the impression is a simple first step toward entering the hearing world.

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On the second trip, the audiology team fits new hearing aids and repairs old ones. Here, Robertson organizes ear impressions for earmolds-provided by Westone Laboratories at a reduced cost-for a group of students at the Montego Bay CCCD school. The team also provides batteries and trains teachers and school nurses about proper care, cleaning, and use of the aids. Several hearing aid companies, including Widex, Phonak, Sonic Innovations, and GN Resound, donate aids or provide them at reduced rates. Private donations also cover volunteers’ travel expenses, batteries, and other supplies. Each year, the team makes approximately 150 earmolds at CCCD.

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After traveling to Jamaica for more than a decade, Robertson is seeing the children she first fitted with hearing aids-such as these three at the Montego Bay CCCD campus-grow up. The students remember her and how she and her colleagues helped them access sound.

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In January, 2011, an older student who is deaf (at left with the Hearing and Speech Foundation’s John Berry) came to CCCD for the first time. After administering a hearing test and taking an earmold impression, the audiology team was able to give him access to sound for the first time. The student, initially fearful, soon realized that Berry was trying to help. This type of moment makes the service opportunities in Jamaica fulfilling, say Yeager and Robertson.

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After a long day at the Knockpatrick school, Paris and her classmates flock around the audiology volunteers. Always excited when the work teams come to CCCD, the students want to know how long the team will stay in Jamaica and when it must return to America.

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Yeager snapped this photograph from the airplane as the team of audiologists left Jamaica in December 2008. She knew-even during that first trip-that that she would be back to help the CCCD students realize their hearing potential.
Find more information on the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf website. For more information visit the Hearing and Speech Foundation website.
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March 2012
Volume 17, Issue 3