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Feb 15, 2005

New hearing aids help Belizeans lead better lives

Story PictureWe don’t know if they’re listening to this newscast for the first time but today dozens of Belizeans are hearing better thanks to the donation of new hearing aids. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods was on hand for the fittings.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Shortly after nine this morning, six year old Ajawnie Swift arrived at the Special Education Unit. It?s been two years since the little girl was fitted with a pair of hearing aids. Today she is scheduled to change both devices for a more comfortable fit.

Greg Austin, Hearing Specialist
?What are going to do is help her increase her hearing, push all her thresholds back up to a range where she doesn?t have to strain to hear anymore.?

Sharette Swift says it was not until her daughter?s second birthday that she first noticed something was wrong.

Sharette Swift, Mother
?Probably when she was about two, when she started moving around, touching things and you know as a parent you try to tell her don?t touch this and don?t touch that and she wasn?t paying any attention to what I am saying.?

A series of medical examinations confirmed that Swift had suffered hearing loss in both ears, a condition she had since childbirth. The Ministry of Health suspects that five percent or thirteen thousand five hundred of Belize?s children suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Because most of these patients? families cannot afford the cost of a hearing aid, which can run as high as three thousand dollars many of these children do not get the help they need. Some do manage to communicate by sign language but because a majority of people lack the skill, it makes it frustrating for patients like Swift to live a normal life. The Swift family managed the best they could…that is until Ajawnie received her first hearing aid. The assistance came from the Starkey Hearing Foundation, a non-profit U.S based organization that has provided over a hundred and fifteen thousand hearing aids worldwide through its Better Hearing outreach programme.

Fredric Rondeau, International Missions Director, Starkey hearing Foundation
?In this case this is our fourth visit to Belize and it?s a joint partnership with the Secretary of Health. It?s always coordinated nationwide through the Special Education Unit.?

Eleanor Castillo, Coordinator, Special Education Unit, MOH
?It helps the patient to hear and to be able to understand sounds a little bit more. They can learn to articulate much better. It helps a lot with their communication; being able to communicate with not only their parents but with their family members as well.?

Today, Swift was among ninety patients both young and old fitted with new hearing aids. The patients all went through a process that included the checking and cleaning of the ear canal, the fitting of the hearing aid and then a lesson on how to care for the device.

Sharette Swift
?They give me back a child. So we can communicate more and we can sit and watch our favourite television shows. We can read books together more often and we have a little bit of quarrel here and there.?

Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

If you would like to know more about the work of the Starkey Foundation you can contact Eleanor Castillo at the Special Education Unit. The Starkey Foundation receives financial support from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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