Helping the young to hear
In the African country of Chad, most children with hearing loss receive no audiological care, and therefore often miss out on the chance to get an education. This is due to a lack of both skilled professionals and hearing aids. The Hear the World Foundation supports the Swiss organization Écoute-moi!, which has the goal of giving these children a life without limitations. They are doing this by providing audiological care and training local audiologists.
Place & Year
Life is hard for people in Chad: Many live in absolute poverty and have hardly any perspective. Both extreme heat and torrential rains pose a threat to their livelihood. There are a few doctors in the capital N'Djamena, but finding audiological care is near impossible. This means that hearing loss is often only discovered in children when it is too late and not treated. This has serious consequences, in that the children do not learn how to speak properly, cannot attend a normal school and are often socially isolated.
This is why Swiss organization Écoute-moi! has set itself the goal of providing a bright future for the children in Chad who have hearing loss. Since 2019, the team from Switzerland has been working together with a local committee and the school for children with hearing loss (EETS) in N´Djamena. The Hear the World Foundation has been supporting the project from the start, providing financial resources, hearing devices, and audiological equipment.
Fitting hearing aids in scorching heat
Thanks to this support, the team from Écoute-moi! were able to travel to the capital of Chad in March 2020 to fit modern and durable hearing aids for the first of 70 school children at EETS in N‘Djamena. The team endured difficult conditions as the extreme heat not only affected workers but also their equipment: Both the silicon and acrylon used for the impressions hardened within a few seconds in temperatures of around 41 degrees. However, the experienced team was able to find a solution and give 30 children the greatest gift of their lives— the ability to hear.
The team were particularly moved by the story of 16-year-old Grace. Through tears the young woman talked about the hearing loss she experienced two years earlier, which affected her several times during her final exams — soon she was left with no choice but to switch to the school for the deaf. It is hard to imagine how happy she was to have her hearing aids fitted by the Écoute-moi! team!
Grace gets her new hearing aids fitted.
Sustainable support: education and prevention
As is the case in many African countries, hearing loss is more common in Chad than in European countries. Untreated ear infections are often the cause of this but incorrectly dosed malaria medications and foreign bodies in the ears can also impair hearing. Affected children can only learn to speak if hearing loss is detected and treated early. A key part of the project is therefore sustainably developing the audiological services in the country so that trained local professionals can conduct hearing assessments and fit hearing aids correctly without outside assistance. With this in mind, Écoute-moi! trained two local technicians – Fulbert and Denise – in audiological care. In doing so they achieved a first: The two are the first hearing care professionals in the country.
Denise and Fulbert are practising how to make ear mold impressions.
This strategy has paid off tremendously during the coronavirus pandemic. Although the team from Écoute-moi! could no longer visit the project in Chad after March 2020, work on site was able to continue – all thanks to the two local technicians.
In the long term, there are plans to carry out hearing screenings and fit hearing aids at other schools. Écoute-moi! plans to provide hearing devices throughout N’Djamena and subsequently across the whole of Chad.