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UF Audiologists Serve Rural Children in Yucatan, Mexico

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Providing hearing services to children in underserved Mayan communities was the primary goal of a recent mission trip by a group of University of Florida audiologists.

Alice Holmes, Ph.D., an associate professor of communicative disorders at the UF College of Health Professions, and
doctor of audiology students Jennifer Bai Rossi, Christi Barbee, Christa Coore-Powell, Myriam De La Asuncion and Lori White traveled to the Mexican state of Yucatan this spring.

The group observed audiologic care practices in schools serving children with hearing impairments in Yucatan's capital, Merida, and tested the hearing of more than 80 children in special education schools in small Mayan villages. They also donated audiologic equipment to local clinics and 1,000 hearing aid batteries to children.

The trip was coordinated by the local chapter of the National Association of Future Doctors of Audiology, the UF Office of Global Health and AYPRODA, a foundation serving children with hearing impairments in the Yucatan.

The group found that among the children in the Mayan communities, there was a very high incidence of hearing impairment due to maternal exposure to rubella, which affects development of the fetus' inner ear during the first trimester.

"Because of the availability of vaccinations in the United States, I haven't seen a case of rubella in clinic in 20 years," Holmes said.

With an average household monthly income of $125, the cost of a $200 rubella vaccination is an unreasonable expense for most families, Holmes said.

The trip proved to be a valuable learning experience for the students, as it exposed them to auditory problems that aren't typical in the United States, such as middle ear disease and problems with the external ear, and gave them the opportunity to work with children with multiple disabilities or no language.

"I learned how to perform audiology tests in difficult testing situations and that has given me more confidence in the skills I possess," said Barbee, also the president of the UF chapter of the National Association of Future Doctors of Audiology. "This trip has made me more aware of the need to experience the ways other countries perform
my profession and to gain new insights and ideas that can be applied in my practice of audiology."

The UF group plans to make the trip to the Yucatan an annual event and hopes to include another faculty member and twice as many students so that two teams can provide services. They also hope to expand their testing beyond special education schools to mainstream schools in order to identify children with mild or moderate hearing loss.

"We know from our experience in the United States that these children can be labeled as having behavior or learning problems, rather than being correctly diagnosed as having a hearing impairment," Holmes said.


Recent UF Health Science Center news stories are available at www.news.health.ufl.edu/

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The University of Florida Health Science Center - the most comprehensive academic health center in the Southeast - is dedicated to high-quality programs of education, research, patient care and public service. The Health Science Center encompasses the colleges of Dentistry, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine, as well as the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and an academic campus in Jacksonville offering graduate education
programs in dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. The center also has a statewide presence through satellite medical, dental and nursing clinics staffed by UF health professionals; and affiliations with community-based health-care facilities stretching from Hialeah and Miami to the Florida Panhandle.

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