Over 200 students from basic schools across the parish of Hanover were examined and treated for hearing abnormalities over a four-day period under a special project implemented through the Tryall Fund, a non-profit registered organisation at the Tryall Hotel and Villas, in Sandy Bay, Hanover.
A team of nine, which included audiologists and their assistants from the United States, visited the Hopewell Basic School in Orchard, Hanover, from October 9 to 12, to conduct screenings. “We have in excess of 200 students in total from seven basic schools across Hanover, and we also have students from the Jamaica School for the Deaf in Mandeville”, Jackie Smith, a coordinator with the Tryall Fund, told The Gleaner. She shared that, among other things, the Tryall Fund had previously organised a dental clinic and was now conducting one to address hearing abnormalities in the young students.
“We are emphasising basic school students but we are also seeing students up to age nine (years),” she pointed out, noting that every child seen has had to present a permission slip from their parent or guardian before being examined.
She noted that some of the guardians also came in for testing and were seen by the visiting audiologists.
Smith opined that, in a lot of instances, both parents and teachers think that a child is stubborn, when in actuality the child is not hearing well. She noted that, in the same way that poor vision can hamper learning, an inability to hear well can have a similar effect.
President of the Tryall Fund, Carol Radtke, told The Gleaner that the group opted to pay their way to Jamaica, while the fund takes care of their day-to-day expenses for the duration of the visit.
She was very excited about the project, which falls within the 60th anniversary year of the fund and its focus area of health and education.
Lead practitioner, Dr Lori Halvorson, shared that the team members are also all part of an international group - ‘Hearing the Call’ - which undertakes projects all over the world.
Emphasising that the group attends to all age groups in their travel clinics, Dr Halvorson said the team believes in ‘equal ear opportunity, for every ear of every age’. “Vision connects people to things but hearing connects people to people,” she remarked.
“Some new research out of Johns Hopkins University is showing us that, if we could keep people hearing, it reduces our risk of cognitive decline and the kids have better attention span in school,” she said.
She noted that examinations done so far have revealed a number of issues which could have varying effects on the children.
“It’s been a combination. Some of them have a little bit of hearing impairment because of wax, a simple procedure that we can take care of here on site. Some of them have a little bit of fluid behind the eardrums, so we are sending those for a further medical referral locally, while some will need hearing aids,” she noted.
“Majority of them, through the testing and simple intervention, will be hearing better. And, when you hear better, you can pay attention better,” she said.
Dr Halvorson indicated that, given the large number of persons who accessed the service, and dependent also on the level of support it receives, the group would be considering to schedule another visit. She says, already, group members have indicated a willingness to return.