One of the big reasons that I am in Kenya is because I can do something that not a lot of people here are trained to do. I have stayed busy with opening a new building, working with a local university on curriculum for an undergraduate program and seeing patients for hearing tests for the last 5 months, but at the back of my mind the entire time was this nagging need to fit hearing aids. After all, that’s a big reason why I came here and one of the best parts of my job. As an audiologist, to make a diagnosis and not have the tools I need to help with the treatment of a hearing loss makes me feel helpless (and a little useless, if I’m honest). I finally got my first shipment of hearing aids (after almost a month of sitting in customs) just as I was leaving for training and a short trip home. Last week, though, I finally got to start fitting! So, let me introduce you to the Ears to Hear™ project that I’ve been working on and to our first two patients.
The Ears to Hear™ program at Kijabe Hospital exists to provide hearing aids and speech therapy to our needy patients with hearing loss. For children with significant hearing loss, the consequences for not being fit with hearing aids or being given other options for learning to communicate (such as sign language) are quite severe. This can certainly limit their educational, social and vocational prospects, but it also restricts their access to the Gospel. Through providing appropriate options for families, we want to extend the grace of love of Jesus Christ to our patients by providing for their physical needs and, quite literally, giving them “ears to hear” the Good News.
Our first Ears to Hear™ recipients were Simon and Jacob. They have given me permission to share their pictures and stories with you. Would you choose one to pray for this week?
Simon is a happy 3-year-old. I met him and his mother, Salome, through a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook back in January. Because it took a while to determine his exact hearing loss and we hit some glitches with the hearing aids arriving in Kenya quickly, he had to wait until last week to get his new super ear.
You know all of those videos floating around Facebook of babies hearing for the first time with cochlear implants or hearing aids? Well, friends, that used to be a routine part of my life. It is addictive and I have not had a fix in more than a year. I was SO excited to finally fit this little guy.
When we turned the hearing aid on for the first time, Simon became very still and quiet and a big smile bloomed across his face when his mama talked to him. We could not have asked for a better response. He left smiling and paying close attention to sounds and voices that used to sound muffled and were finally coming in clear. Simon will come back for a check-up in 3 months. In the meantime, would you pray for his parents as they help him adjust to hearing a lot of new sounds in his environment ? We would also love to see Simon start talking. He will come to meet our new speech therapist in September, but we can pray for patience and perserverence his mother as she uses some of the strategies I have given her to help him start to talk. You can also pray for funding to come through to fit him with a second hearing aid. It is my goal to fit all of my patients with 2, especially my little ones. The resources just aren’t quite there yet, so I am working on one at a time. However, Simon is a priority for me to fit with 2 as soon as possible. Join me in asking the Lord to provide for this.
Jacob is 18. When he was young, he lived on the street with a group of other boys. In Kenya, many street boys spend their days begging and use the money they collect to buy glue to huff that helps stave off hunger and numb them to most everything else. They don’t usually go to school. Some are taken advantage of by predatory adults. It is a desperate situation for a young child. There are a few non-profits who work to help them, but there are always more boys to help than people and money available to help them. Jacob’s story is miraculously different. He was taken in by one of these non-profits, eventually became a part of a family, started going to school and is now a responsible, ambitious young man. He is in form 3 (a junior in high school) and is one of the top students in his class.
One of Jacob’s ears is completely normal. For reasons we don’t know, he has significant hearing loss only in his left ear. Normally, I reserve our limited supply of hearing aids for people who have hearing loss in both ears, but children with uncorrected hearing loss in only one ear are still at a significant academic disadvantage compared to those who have normal hearing in both ears. It takes far more energy to learn when you only have one ear to listen with. While he is bright, Jacob is still working harder that most other students in his class to hear and understand what is being taught.
I always ask patients his age what they want to do with their lives. Jacob wants to be a doctor and big goals deserve big, enthusiastic cheerleaders and supporters. I see this hearing aid as an investment in one of Kenya’s future doctors. The Lord has already redeemed so much of his life. How incredible it is to be even a small part of what is planned for this next chapter! Would you pray for Jacob as he finishes this year in school? Would you pray that he would be used to build God’s Kingdom here in Kenya, no matter what his career?
Want to play?
I have 4 other patients who will be fit with Ears to Hear™ hearing aids in the next month. If you would like to be a part of stories like these, you can help fund a hearing aid, batteries or speech therapy services. The total cost for one hearing aid is $300. You can help pay for an entire hearing aid or make a donation of as little as $10 and contribute toward the purchase of one. If you’re interested in being a part of the Ears to Hear™ project at Kijabe Hospital, you can make a tax deductible donation by clicking here and under the “Add Special Instructions for the Recipient” section on the page where you review your donation, use the code ETH1 to designate your gift for a hearing aid.