Young boy's fundraising efforts help provide hearing health for Guatemala residents
Entheos calls it the "hearing smile," that unmistakable ear-to-ear grin that spreads across someone’s face when they are finally able to hear what’s going on in the world around them. And, thanks to the generosity of a boy named Braden and his dog, Chewy, Entheos and the Oticon Hearing Foundation were able to provide that experience to more than 250 patients in Guatemala in November 2017. Entheos, a cooperative of private audiology practices, believes in sharing best practices and giving the gift of hearing locally and around the world.
"My dog ate my hearing aids..."
Braden Baker was born with a bilateral hearing loss and has worn hearing aids since he was seven months old. When his dog, Chewy, destroyed his second pair of hearing aids, his parents were understandably upset.
“My mom got really mad at me. They (his parents) kinda gave me a lesson about how we were lucky that we can afford another pair and that some people can’t afford them. And that made me feel bad,” Braden told Ellen DeGeneres when he appeared as a guest on her show in October 2017. With the help of his mom, the now eleven-year-old started a GoFundMe campaign, which ultimately raised $75,000 for people who need hearing aids. The Bakers donated the funds to the Oticon Hearing Foundation, which also donates to the Entheos Audiology Cooperative.
A country of great need
Mary Carson, Au.D., was one of five Entheos audiologists who made the recent trip to Guatemala, fitting more than 115 children and adults with hearing aids in remote areas of the country where resources and hearing healthcare professionals are scarce. “There is just such a need there,” she said. “You go to the clinic in the morning and there are dozens and dozens of people waiting in line to be served. They have so little. Anything we did to help, they were so grateful. They were willing to wait hours in line to go through the process, all the time with smiles on their faces.”
The sole audiologist in Guatemala City also participated, bringing along several staff to help deliver care. “This particular trip we probably fit more adults than children,” Dr. Carson said. “We also removed earwax. There’s definitely a need for general hearing health.”
Dr. Carson remembers one elderly patient who came in with her son-in-law. “She was blind with significant hearing loss and had never worn hearing aids,” she said. “She was completely disconnected from the world around her. She just lit up (when she was fit with the hearing aids) -- was so grateful and gave the warmest hug. That fitting really spoke to my heart -- to be able to reconnect her to her family and the world around her through hearing and communication.”
A hand up
While it was the first mission trip for Dr. Carson, it wasn’t the first one for many of the others. “Entheos is really focused on providing sustainable care,” she explained. “They identify people in the community who are interested in providing care for themselves and others in the community.” Toward that goal, Entheos identified three students in the area and are providing them with hearing healthcare scholarships. The students will attend school in Guatemala, then do an internship in the United States with some Entheos members. Entheos also conducts similar programs trips in Mozambique, Jordan, Syria, Ecuador, Turks and Caicos.This group plans to return to Guatemala in August or September of this year.
“In those communities, if you’re born with hearing loss and can’t get hearing aids, you are not chosen to go to school, you don’t learn and you can’t participate in things. Being able to hear and have access to language is so important, and they all deserve that.”
Braden also accompanied the Entheos group to witness the hearing aid distribution first hand. “For him to experience the culture really made him realize how grateful he is for all he has,” Dr. Carson said. “The world is so big. We all have the same basic need to communicate and have relationships -- to love and be loved. Being able to reconnect people to friends, families, schooling and what’s important to them was just so meaningful.”