South American Journey: Audiology Students Provide Hearing Assistance in Panama As a native of Panama and an audiologist at the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders, I have been leading trips to Panama to provide hearing services since 1992. We coordinate services through the clinics of the Ministerio de Salud, the Panamanian health office. I ... World Beat
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World Beat  |   November 01, 2007
South American Journey: Audiology Students Provide Hearing Assistance in Panama
Author Notes
  • Briseida Northrup, is an audiologist at the University of Texas at Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders. For further information or to donate hearing aids or other supplies, contact her at northrup@utdallas.edu.
    Briseida Northrup, is an audiologist at the University of Texas at Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders. For further information or to donate hearing aids or other supplies, contact her at northrup@utdallas.edu.×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / International & Global / World Beat
World Beat   |   November 01, 2007
South American Journey: Audiology Students Provide Hearing Assistance in Panama
The ASHA Leader, November 2007, Vol. 12, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.WB1.12162007.5
The ASHA Leader, November 2007, Vol. 12, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.WB1.12162007.5
As a native of Panama and an audiologist at the University of Texas (UT) at Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders, I have been leading trips to Panama to provide hearing services since 1992.
We coordinate services through the clinics of the Ministerio de Salud, the Panamanian health office. I work with Leyda Diaz de Rodriguez, an audiologist based in Chitré, who reaches out to as many patients as possible through her network of clinics. The emerging profession of audiology in Panama needs much more assistance to provide comprehensive hearing care and proper amplification to children and adults with hearing loss.
Last December’s six-day trip included 14 volunteers—audiologists from the Callier Center, students from four American universities who learned about this opportunity by word of mouth and at audiology meetings, and several Panamanian volunteers. The group’s work was supported by donations of supplies and hearing aids from private donors, the Hearing OutReach to Neighboring Societies, the Callier Center, and Phonak Hearing Systems.
The group treated adults and children at several health clinics in four different provinces near Chitré, as well as that town’s hospital, El Vigia, and a retirement home. We used rooms within the health clinics but when patients are seen for follow-up visits, they are tested in sound booths. We fit both new and reconditioned hearing aids.
The students tested more than 300 people and fit more than 100 hearing aids, and encouraged the patients to follow up with free ongoing care at the private Clínica de Audición, Lenguaje y Aprendizaje in Chitré. The local program remakes earmolds for kids who may be outgrowing them before our next visit.
The patients were notified of the service by their respective local clinics, and many traveled from miles away to receive the free services, arriving as early as 4 a.m. They ranged in age from toddlers to seniors.
In a country where the median monthly salary is $200, free audiology services are highly desired. The biggest challenge to our program is the limited number of hearing aids available. On the first day of testing, for example, we were forced to conduct a lottery to determine who would receive a hearing aid. Out of 100 people tested that day, 90 needed a hearing aid.
Clinical and Cultural Learning
The volunteers earn clinical hours and refine their skills, learning how to provide services despite challenges such as noisy air conditioners, no air conditioners, and pounding rain on tin roofs. Testing includes otoscopy, tympanometry, otoacoustic emissions, conventional pure tone testing, instant and regular earmolds, electroacoustical analysis of hearing aids, and probe microphone measures.
Beyond practicing clinical skills, volunteers learn about another culture and experience dependence on interpreters. The students clearly understand that in spite of the overt differences between the two cultures, we are connected by our humanity, and that a smile and a gentle touch can convey a thousand words.
Our delegation included Cindy MacArthur, Callier audiologist; doctoral students Lauren Butler, Barbara Ortiz, Jackie Youde, and Reagan Youngblood (UT), Erica Hansen (Central Michigan University), Rachel Cooper and Julie Helfen (University of Louisville), and Kristi Follett (Gallaudet University); Dimio Quintero of the Panama Ministry of Health; Graciela Montenegro, student at the Universidad Especializada de las Americas in Panama City; and Jude Ortiz, husband of Barbara and designated historian.
A few patients have given us live chickens in appreciation. Others write thank-you letters and notes. I think the volunteers get more out of it than the patients—when you bring hearing services to children and adults and they tell you how grateful they are, it fills you with enormous satisfaction.
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November 2007
Volume 12, Issue 16