The right to hear is basic to who we are as human beings. We were made to enjoy the song of the birds, communicate with others, and listen to the wind rustle through the trees. In the United States and other wealthy countries, we have been able to fight against hearing loss by using vaccines and other basic medicine. Unfortunately, there are millions of people throughout the world that never benefit from modern medicine. They are unable to have access to even the most basic vaccinations. They and their children suffer as a result, often leading to preventable hearing loss.
I traveled to the Philippines with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, on a mission to help improve the hearing of people in poorer communities. While there, I was greatly saddened to find so many people suffering from hearing loss that was completely preventable. One mother, for example, had a little boy that was born unable to hear because she had the measles while pregnant, something that could have been prevented with an MMR vaccine. On this trip, we were able to provide free hearing aids for over 5,000 children. Those children now have the gift of hearing and can rejoin society and their peers at school and other activities. Rather than growing up isolated, they can now enjoy the fullness of life and the sweet sounds that fill it.
I was so moved by this experience that I have continued to travel with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to developing countries around the world. While, in Haiti, I experienced another eye opening moment. We found that children and people with disabilities, hearing loss included, were labeled as worthless and tossed aside by society to die. These children, at no fault of their own, were cast aside and made to believe that they didn’t matter. Every child, every life matters, regardless of a disability and by providing them with hearing aids we were able to directly impact their lives and show that people with disabilities have value. It is amazing how a piece of medical technology, in this case a hearing aid, can turn a child’s life around and give them value again.
After our trip to Haiti, Hope 2 Haiti director Scott Bonnell issued a statement saying: “It is because of sponsors like Dr. Robert Dean, here fitting children with their new hearing aids, that hundreds of orphans in remote villages like St. Marc are able to hear for the first time.” I believe that it is because of local activists and partners we are able to make a difference. Organizations like Hope 2 Haiti are working with these poor and impoverished communities on a daily basis, paving the way for people like myself and the Starkey Hearing Foundation to come in and provide resources like hearing aids. Without their work it would be impossible for us to help so many.
I have been privileged to continue my work in countries throughout the world and will continue to do so. On each trip, I learn new things and my eyes continue to be opened to the challenges of people living without hearing. As a doctor, I am committed to making a difference in the lives of people at home and throughout the world because there is no difference between us. As people, we are all the same though some have been privileged enough to grow up in the world of vaccinations and preventative medical care while others, through no fault of their own, suffer in silence, cast aside by society. It is up to us, those that can, to stand up and help. I for one am happy to respond to that call and invite others to join me in doing the same. To learn more about the Starkey Hearing Foundation or my work email firstname.lastname@example.org.