Who we help
Our projects support children and adults with hearing loss to realise their rights by enabling access to healthcare and education. Many of the children we help are struggling in school and are without the hearing aids and support they need to learn. We train local health professionals to deliver ear and hearing health services in local hospitals and train teachers in mainstream schools on hearing loss awareness so are effectively included and supported in school.
Michelle, age 5, now has easy access to audiology services near her home in Malawi
Michelle Mlambe is 5 years old from Blantyre, Malawi and has had hearing loss since the age of one, when she had meningitis and was diagnosed with a heart problem. Back in 2014 Michelle’s parents had to travel 350km to ABC Hearing Clinic in Lilongwe (which were the only services available in Malawi at the time) where she was given hearing aids which she used for two years. Fast forward to 2016, when Michelle’s parents heard about Sound Seekers new Audiology Clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), and were pleased they no longer had to travel so far for Michelle’s treatment. Michelle was first seen at the QECH Audiology Clinic in 2016 by Chikondi, one of the first Malawian Audiologists trained by Sound Seekers. Her hearing test revealed she has a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss on the left ear and a profound sensorineural hearing loss on the right. Michelle was fitted with a new hearing aid in her right ear – she was very happy with the hearing aid and smiled the whole time during the consultation.
Since then, Michelle and her parents can easily come to the follow up appointments now there are services close to their home. At a recent follow up appointment, Michelle’s parents were thrilled to report to Chikondi that Michelle could hear an airplane, follow instructions whenever she is sent to do something at home, she turns her head when there is a car passing by, she mimics words that she can hear her siblings say, she sings an alphabet song, she dances to music and notices when the music is off, and she was also mumbling a lot since the fitting of the hearing aid. Chikondi told us it was very overwhelming to see how happily the parents narrated everything that Michelle was doing at home.
Michelle’s father said: “The services at QECH has helped us greatly. We are very happy with how Michelle has improved since she got the hearing aid in 2016. She can hear everything and can also produce words. We have noticed that school has helped her to cope up with friends, she loves drawing and and showing her work every time she is back from school”. The father has spread the word about the audiology services at QECH which he said is outstanding. His daughter is benefiting a lot from the audiology services and would want anyone with the same problem like Michelle to get help as they did.
Mariama is now getting the support she needs in school in Sierra Leone
Mariama is 18 years old and has been at St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, Sierra Leone for a month. She did her primary schooling in a mainstream school in Freetown and also passed the National Primary School Examination. She relies on lip reading to communicate, which made it difficult in a mainstream school as the teachers would not always face the classroom while teaching. She was having increasing difficulty with Mathematics and with understanding the teachers. Her mother brought her to the school at St Joseph’s at as she was struggling to learn. Based on her educational level achieved, her mother was expecting Mariama to be enrolled in Junior Secondary 3 but on assessment at St Joseph’s they found her educational attainment to be equivalent to Junior Secondary 1 and therefore enrolled her in that class.
Mariama had never been assessed for hearing loss until her assessment at the audiology unit at St Joseph’s where she was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in the right ear and profound hearing loss in the left. She has now been recommended hearing aids, which will be fitted soon. To be able to access the school, her mother has moved her in with relatives in Makeni. Mariama says she enjoys the school very much. She hopes to finish school and run a grocery shop in future.
67 Year Old Sarah from Malawi can now hear again
67 year old Sarah Mhango was first seen at the audiology clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH). Sarah had perforations in both ear drums and had problems hearing since she was a child, which has worsened over time. After antibiotic treatment, the infection was cleared. Sarah was diagnosed with moderate to profound mixed hearing loss in her right ear and severe to profound mixed hearing loss in her left ear. At her follow up appointment a few months later Sarah was fitted with refurbished hearing aids from our Hearing Aid Refurbishment Project by Chikondi, one of the first Malawian Audiologists sponsored by Sound Seekers. Since receiving her hearing aids, Sarah’s life has greatly improved.
“I am so excited to be able to hear at church and especially at weddings. I can sit anywhere in church and still hear the sermon. I love to tell my friends about what I have heard each Sunday at church. I have been telling everyone at church that if they are having a hearing problem or any problem with their ears that they need to go to QECH’s audiology clinic.
14 year old Foday loves his new school in Sierra Leone
Foday Manasary is a 14-year-old boy studying at St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, Sierra Leone, where he is now a residential student.
A local priest found Foday working on the streets of Kabala. The priest realised that Foday had difficulty hearing and was also showing some behavioural problems. The priest brought Foday to St Joseph’s in September 2017 when he was assessed at the audiology unit and they found that he had moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. He was then fitted with hearing aids and enrolled in Class V.
Foday has adjusted very well to the school and he signs that his new “friends are the best thing about being here”. He likes wearing his hearing aids as he is able to hear much better now compared to before he had his new hearing aids. Foday says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up, inspired by the teachers in his school.
Six Year Old Frank has his Hearing Aid Fitted
Six year old Frank Geofrey from Mbayani was seen at the QECH Audiology Clinic in September 2017. His results revealed a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss bilaterally. Frank was then recommended to get hearing aids and after having fitting on a pair, Frank managed to grasp various sounds as he was being tested. He was clapping away and laughing as his mother looked on joyfully.
Frank then came in later for a hearing aid review. He looked enthusiastic and his mother had just informed us on how she has seen a great change in Frank as of recently. She went onto tell us on how Frank was able to explain to her what he had learnt at school every day. Having seen how her son has benefited from our services, she has stated that she would recommend QECH Audiology Clinic to anyone who would reap the same benefits.
“Your services has greatly helped my son. My son is benefiting a lot from school than before. I am a happy mother today and I know my son will get educated and be someone tomorrow”
Three newborn babies screened for hearing loss in Malawi
Hamza Mustafa was born in May 2017 at 32 weeks gestation. He was only 1600gms and needed to be resuscitated at birth. He also suffered from jaundice and received gentamicin for an infection. Due to these risk factors, he was selected for our targeted newborn hearing screening at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Audiology Clinic – the first paediatric screening of its kind in Southern Malawi.
When Hamza was tested in June 2017, he showed no signs of infection or middle ear fluid but unfortunately he failed automated ABR testing in both ears suggesting that he may have hearing loss. He will return to the audiology clinic for a complete diagnostic test. His rough start to life may have resulted in hearing loss, but he has benefited greatly by participating in a targeted newborn hearing screening. If he is diagnosed with mild-moderate hearing loss, he will be fitted with hearing aids as soon as possible to allow for the development of speech and language. Many children in Malawi are not able to develop speech and language due to very late diagnosis of hearing loss, and this newborn screening has given Hamza the best chance for an early diagnosis.
Dolla and Debora Makawa, are twin girls born prematurely at Queen Elizabeth Teaching Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre, Malawi, in 2017,both with a low birth weight. They were also selected to be part of the targeted newborn hearing screening at QECH Audiology Clinic. Both girls passed their automated ABR and tympanometry suggesting that they both have normal hearing.
3 year old Christina is fitted with refurbished hearing aids
Christina was diagnosed with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia and returned for a follow-up appointment in April 2017. Bhavisha (Sound Seeker’s volunteer paediatric audiologist in Zambia) used play audiometry (a technique used to test hearing of young children to respond to sounds as part of a game) to assess Christina’s hearing in order to accurately select the best type of refurbished hearing aid to use. Her ear mould was made by Patson (Audio technician) on the same day and she was fitted with refurbished hearing aids from HARP for the first time.
Both hearing aids were fitted and her responses were checked. She was given a two week trial and will return for a follow up appointment to assess how the hearing aids have helped. Christina is not yet in school but her mother said there is a sign language school she can go to but it is very far. For now, Bhavisha gave her mother more information and simple sign language support so she can communicate better with Christina at home. Thanks to HARP, Christina has been given the chance to hear better, before she has reached school age, and now will be able to communicate better at home with her family.
Shakira is completely different in class since her hearing aids were fitted
Shakira is a 13 year old girl from Malawi, who developed hearing loss following meningitis at the age of 5. She then stopped speaking which is when her parents realised she was having difficulty hearing. She is able to lip read and speak a bit but only her parents understand her fully. Shakira’s mother, Famely, said that Shakira’s school teacher had informed the students about a hearing screening outreach visit to be held in January 2017 and had asked students to communicate this information to their parent.. Shakira’s mother then brought Shakira to this outreach visit where she was assessed and diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss. She was measured for hearing aids and asked to come back for fitting. Shakira was fitted with hearing aids in February 2017 and both her mother and she were incredibly overwhelmed by the marked change in her hearing.
Shakira is in Class 5 and she says only after hearing aid fitting had she realised that some people were actually shouting when speaking with her and she now asks them to speak more softly. Shakira’s teacher told Famely that Shakira is completely different in class since she’s had hearing aids and she’s much better able to communicate with the teacher and her fellow students. Shakira’s mother made an important observation – she said that in the last few years she had noticed that Shakira was getting increasingly isolated due to her hearing loss and she was struggling to fit in with her peers and her confidence and self-esteem was diminishing. Since the hearing loss, she sees her interaction and communication with her friends has vastly improved and now her friends come round to the house to spend time with her and she goes over to her friends’ houses. Shakira will continue to be followed up by the QECH audiology team on a regular basis.
5 year old Natasha has her hearing tested for the first time
Natasha has had problems hearing since she was a baby, but her hearing was not tested at birth. Her mother only realised she could not hear at age 1. She was first diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss at Beit Cure Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia and returned for a follow up appointment in April 2017 to have a full hearing assessment in order to have refurbished hearing aids fitted (from the HARP). They travelled 45km from home to get to Beit Cure Hospital.
Bhavisha (Sound Seeker’s volunteer paediatric audiologist in Zambia) used play audiometry (a technique used to test hearing of young children to respond to sounds as part of a game) to assess Natasha’s hearing in order to accurately select the best type of refurbished hearing aid to use. Patson, who works for the HARP, did the ear-mould fitting for Natasha and fit her with hearing aids for the first time. They showed Natasha and her mother how to use and look after the hearing aids and she will need a lot of follow up and monitoring to see her progress with her new hearing aids. Natasha goes to school in a special classroom within a mainstream school, and her new hearing aids will help her in class. Natasha’s mother is very grateful for her daughter’s new hearing aids, which would not have been possible without HARP.
18 year old Chisomo has had hearing loss since age 8 but can now hear again
Chisomo, an 18 year old young woman, was fitted with hearing aids in the outreach visit to Nancholi in Malawi in March 2017, through our HARK vehicle. The outreach visit in Nancholi was conducted in a local church and supported by local organisations, Joseph Orphan and Community Care and Mwayi Trust. Chisomo had come to an outreach visit in January when she was assessed and diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss in the right ear and mild sloping to moderate hearing loss in the left. Once she was fitted with her hearing aids, she couldn’t believe the dramatic change in her hearing and was surprised that she could now hear what people were saying.
Chisomo has has hearing loss since age 8, but when her parents took her to the hospital at the time, they only washed her ears but did not provide any other treatment. She dropped out of school at Grade 8 as she was finding it hard to hear and understand the teachers who did not pick up on her hearing difficulties or offer any support. She said that if she comes across other people with hearing loss, she will tell them that there is support available and they should seek treatment.
Twins Ousainou and Anssa were identified with hearing loss thanks to trained itinerant teachers at their school
Ten year old twin boys, Ousainou and Anssa, were referred to the audiology clinic at St John’s School of the Deaf in The Gambia for a consultation with Yaka Faal. They go to St Therese’s School and their teacher told their father that they weren’t responding in class. He was aware that sometimes they didn’t respond but thought they were just ignoring him. The teacher had recently been trained by itinerant teacher, Fatoumatta S. Jallow, through Sound Seekers’ Step Down Training which helps ensure teachers can identify children with hearing loss in their class and that they have the skills to include them in mainstream schooling.
Fatoumatta explained: “Before the training teachers didn’t like working with children with hearing loss because they didn’t have the knowledge or skills to do so. The training has helped overcome this and now children can be in mainstream schools because the teachers know how to identify them and understand more about how to teach them. The training has been very effective.”
Yaka screened the boys and they both have severe to profound hearing loss but they can be helped with the fitting of hearing aids and will remain at St Therese’s School. Nancy Mendy, Head of the Special Education Needs Unit at the Ministry of Education, explains: “The Step Down Training [facilitated by Sound Seekers] enabled us to access teachers that we wouldn’t normally be able to do. The impact is not only on the teachers but on the children who now have a better environment for learning. Teachers have now been trained in 378 schools in The Gambia”.
Chisomo giggles at the sound of her voice thanks to her new hearing aids
Chisomo is a 6 years old girl from Blantyre, Malawi and has a twin sister named Chikondi. Both had Yellow Fever at birth and spent several months in Kangaroo Care until they were well enough to go home. Chisomo’s father Joseph told us Chisomo has had hearing loss since she was born and has normal development except that her speech is delayed. Chisomo and Chikondi are both in the same class in school where Chikondi is performing very well, unlike her sister Chisomo who has behavioural issues and is quite shy – these issues could be related to her hearing loss. Chisomo was diagnosed with a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss in both ears at the QECH audiology clinic. In February 2017 she was fitted with two hearing aids that were donated to Sound Seekers. Chisomo was very excited to get her hearing aids and was giggling at the new sound of her voice.
Ebola survivor Sorie’s new hearing aids are helping him at school
It has been reported that many of the survivors of Ebola have ear and hearing complications. As a survivor of Ebola, the horror and suffering that 11 year old Sorie has endured is unimaginable to those of us far away from the fear of exposure or desolation of reality. Sorie bravely shared his story but the words don’t capture the true devastation of the Ebola Crisis or indeed the continued need for support and assistance in its wake to ensure that those like Sorie and his sister who survived have access to the health care they need. Sound Seekers works to increase access to ear and hearing care, and improve access to education for those with hearing loss whatever its cause. Sorie is originally from Lungi near Freetown. Last year, after surviving Ebola, he came to St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni as he now suffers from hearing loss.
“We were at Lungi when my father got sick. My father died and we were taken to a camp and then my mother got sick and she also died. I too got sick and so did my sister. No one was allowed to touch us. We survived but we lost so many of our family. When I recovered from Ebola, I couldn’t hear so I was brought here. I like coming to St Joseph’s because I had a hearing aid fitted and I can learn to write.”
Happy is no longer held back in school
Happy is a little boy who has hearing loss. He was not doing well in school and was having some behavioural problems. He had been stuck in the same class for three years because he couldn’t hear anything. Last year, our audiologist volunteer, Dr Courtney Caron, fitted him with donated hearing aids. Happy has finally moved up a year and is thriving in school.
Mervis had her remote hearing aid fitting via tele-audiology
Mervis is a 15 year old Zambian girl with severe sensorineural hearing loss bilaterally, which was caused by meningitis which she contracted in 2008.
The Sound Seekers team in Ndola identified her hearing loss during 2014 at the audiology clinic at Ndola Central Hospital and recommended that she be fitted with bilateral hearing aids as soon as possible. Aural impressions were taken of both ears and earmoulds were made on site. In June 2014, the Sound Seekers tele-audiology platform was used to have her hearing aids programmed and switched on by Shannon Kruyt, an audiologist located in Cape Town, South Africa.
The session was supervised at the remote site by Alfred Mwamba, ( currently the only Zambian audiologist) who was able to evaluate the session and provide necessary feedback to Shannon. As far as we know, this was the first remote hearing aid fitting of its kind in Africa.
Shannon travelled to Ndola in March 2015 to meet Mervis face-to-face and to assist with her hearing aid follow-up appointment. Although there were a few technical issues to attend to, Mervis is happy with her hearing aids and finds them extremely beneficial, both at home and at school.
Innocent is back in school and thriving
Innocent is a little boy in Blantyre who lost most of his hearing through malaria and was already starting to withdraw, and fail at school. We fitted him with hearing aids, and he started laughing and responding straightaway. He’s now back at school and thriving. Innocent is now a boy with a chance of an education, a job and of self-sufficiency.
Mpunga from Zambia kept her job thanks to her new hearing aids
Mpunga is a 36-year-old mother of three who works as a general nurse in her hometown of Mufulira. It took three hours each way for her to travel to the clinic in Ndola to have her hearing loss checked. Moping noticed her hearing ?problems when she was pregnant with her youngest child. This made it very difficult for her to hear her patients and her young children at home and her job was at risk.
Mpunga has a hearing condition called Otosclerosis in both ears. Otosclerosis affects the tiny bones (ossicles) in the middle ear, preventing sound vibrations from being conducted efficiently. This has left Mpunga with a moderate to severe hearing loss on both sides.
Whilst we didn’t have the facilities or expertise to conduct the corrective surgery, this is where hearing aids can make a real difference. You can see from the smile on Mpunga’s face that the long journey to the clinic was worth it. She is now able to properly communicate with her patients and children again and keep her job.
Hajiri is happy to hear her friends again
Hajiri is ten and from Malawi. She was doing well in school, until 2012, when the teachers noticed she wasn’t hearing well in class. In 2013 she failed her year, and had to repeat it. Hajiri had her hearing assessed in the audiology department at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Malawi. Hajiri’s audiogram showed that she had moderate hearing loss in both ears. Hajiri has suffered repeated ear infections throughout her life, which has resulted in perforated eardrums on both sides. She needed a bone conductor hearing aid, which bypasses the damaged middle ear completely and stimulates the intact inner ear (cochlea) directly.
Mwanaisha (pictured left with Hajiri) was sponsored by Sound Seekers to do a diploma in audiology in Nairobi and is now studying for a Masters degree at the University of Manchester. Rebecca, an Australian Audiologist based in Lilongwe, over 200 miles away supports Mwanaisha and her colleagues in Blantyre with hearing aid fittings. After Mwanaisha sent her Hajiri’s audiogram in December, Rebecca selected the correct hearing aid for her – a bone conductor conductor hearing aid which is worn over the head like a hair band – and brought it with her on a visit to Blantyre.
Hajiri is very happy that she will now be able to hear her friends, family and teachers properly again and succeed in school.
Emma is achieving well in school
Emma is 9 years old. She has eardrum perforations in both ears and had a history of chronic ear discharge since early childhood. She was struggling to hear her teachers in school.
Due to her history of chronic discharge, she was not a candidate for traditional hearing aids. Emma was fitted with a Unitron Max E SP bone conduction hearing aid in May 2015 provided by our partners at ABC Hearing Clinic and Training Centre in Lilongwe, Malawi and made specially for her specially made by Unitron in Canada.
When Emma came for her follow up appointment with her grandmother at the end of the school year, she excitedly shared her latest report card. Her grandmother reported significant improvement in Emma’s school scores, she earned all Excellent or Good marks this term. Emma is very grateful for her new hearing aid which she received from QECH Audiology in Blantyre, Malawi.
Enert can now participate fully in class
Enert is a 12 year old girl who lives about 2 hours outside Blantyre in a township called Mesongwe. She had normal hearing up until 2013 where she had a sudden hearing loss from an unknown cause. She was tested at QECH in February 2015 and was diagnosed with moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in the right ear and a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss in the left ear. Enert was fitted with Phonak Naida Q30-SP hearing aids in June 2015, which were donated by Hear the World.
Enert is in standard 7 in school which is advanced and she started school early. Her mother reported that during the period that her daughter’s hearing loss was untreated (2013-2015) school was much more difficult for her and because she could not understand the teacher during lessons. She relied heavily on notes from friends in order to pass her classes and advance in school. She had to work so much harder because she couldn’t hear her lessons but that didn’t stop this determined young girl from advancing in school. Her mother is heavily involved in her child’s life and education and wants to see her daughter succeed. Ebert is very bright young girl who has aspirations to become a physician one day. She told her mother that since she received her hearing aids, she can now understand her teacher again and can answer questions in class – her favorite subjects are English and Science and Technology.
Enert loves to listen to music at church and dance with her friends. Her mother says that it is so much easier to communicate with her now that she is wearing her hearing aids and she no longer has to raise her voice to talk to her.
Sorie and Ada are back in school after losing their hearing due to Ebola
Two pupils from the St Joseph’s School in Sierra Leone, Sorie (aged 10) and his sister Ada (aged 6) recovered from Ebola but both lost their hearing, very likely due to the disease. It’s been a very difficult time for them, both their parents died and they are now in the care of their 22 year old sister. They have since been fitted with hearing aids and are doing much better. The school has now re-opened and the children are returning to continue with their education.
Edith, a nurse from Malawi is able to hear her patients again
Edith is a nurse and a health visitor at a hospice. She came to the audiology room in Blantyre, Malawi with hearing loss. It was severely affecting her job: she could only visit patients with someone accompanying her. This was often impossible. Edith is the only nurse in her local area who makes home visits so this meant that patients were simply not getting help.
Dr Caron (a Sound Seekers volunteer Audiologist) and Mwanaisha, the audiology nurse, diagnosed bilateral atelectasis. Her eardrums are severely retracted and had attached themselves to the bones of the middle ear. Surgery wasn’t an option. Her right ear was too far gone to be helped, but Dr Caron and Mwanaisha fitted her left ear with a powerful hearing aid, donated to Sound Seekers from a Specsavers customer in the UK. Edith can now help her patients on her own again. Edith cried after her first hearing aid fitting and provided many hugs to the team after her follow up appointment.
Yaka is acquiring the skills she needs
Yaka Faal is a nurse in The Gambia where there are no native audiologists. Sound Seekers has sponsored her to do an audiology diploma in Zambia so that she can take these skills home with her.
“I’m so happy that Sound Seekers has brought me to Zambia (from The Gambia) to further my knowledge in audiology. I’m looking forward to returning to my home country and applying my new skills – the needs there are great.”