The HEAR India project provides support for the students at Rangammal School, a school for the hearing impaired in rural southern India, which is home to around 200 children. The purpose of the project is to ensure that all children receive digital hearing aids, that local experts are trained in audiological care and that the children have access to speech therapy.

Place & Year

Tamil Nadu, India, since 2014

Project Partners

The Sylvia Wright Trust

Support

Technology Knowledge

Main Focus

Children Providing audiological care for children in low-income countries is a focal area of the Hear the World Foundation’s activities.
Professional training The Hear the World Foundation supports projects that enable continuous audiological training for professionals on site.
Prevention of hearing loss The Hear the World Foundation globally promotes awareness for the topics of hearing and hearing loss and thus actively contributes toward the prevention of hearing loss.
Programs for parents & families By supporting self-help groups for parents, the Hear the World Foundation makes an important contribution, thus ensuring that affected parents receive specific help and assistance.

According to government figures, the Indian economy is growing more rapidly and sharply than any other. This boom is helping many Indians reach new levels of spending power. Yet this growth and the economic upswing is a far cry from rural areas, where well over half of the population earn their living from agriculture and live in extreme poverty. In these areas, basic infrastructure is missing and ear medicals care rare.

This is the case in Tiruvannamalai, which is located 160 kilometers southwest of the major city of Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. That is why the Sylvia Wright Trust has been actively involved in this southern Indian town since 1996, setting up a boarding school for children with hearing loss as well as a hospital and a day care center for severely disabled children. The Rangammal Memorial School for the Hearing Impaired provides free education for children in need between the ages of three and 18. Alongside solid schooling, the pupils also receive audiological care, and thanks to the support of the Hear the World Foundation, all pupils are given digital hearing aids.
 

The school is a magical place where children who had hardly any prospects in life are given all kinds of opportunities»
Crystal Variava, Sonova audiologist in India

Follow-up care and ongoing training

In February 2016, two Sonova audiologists, Anna Biggins and Crystal Variava, visited the Rangammal Memorial School. Their aim was to provide follow-up care to children who had recently received hearing aids as well as to train local experts. “On the first day, we started off by taking a look at the work processes and analyzing them. “The goal was to get a precise understanding on which aspects to put a focus on during our training.” One of the fundamental problems they identified was the large amount of time spent repairing and testing all the hearing aids, which stopped working because of the humidity of the local climate. Prior to the visit, this repair work was mainly completed by four teachers, who have had some audiological training.

Due to the problems identified, Anna and Crystal ran a course for the other teachers at the school to show them how to do essential check-ups. This program was even intensified during the project visit of five volunteers from Sonova India in October 2016. All the teachers received training to be able to troubleshoot the hearing aids at a very basic level. Thanks to this initiative, it’s ensured that sustainable care and quick repairs can be maintained. “I’m impressed with how much has been achieved in such a short time,” Diane Ward, Project Manager at the Rangammal Memorial School, said. “With Hear the World’s support, the teachers have made huge progress.”

Crystal, employed by Sonova in India who has already been on two volunteering trips to the school said she would like to continue supporting the Rangammal School. “I’m planning to improve the infrastructure even further over the next few years so that all the children receive suitable hearing aids from a very early age,” she said. A the moment, that’s not always the case, but it is crucial for speech development.”

Speech therapy and further training

Crucial for speech development is also language training. Between the project visits in February and November great progress has already been made. The teachers now ask all pupils to speak out and articulate words and sentences, thus encouraging them to learn to speak. Although the pupils are making progress in speech acquisition and language development, in their free time, they still rely on sign language among their peers. For them to further develop their language skills and fulfil their potential, the school will provide improved speech therapy services. This requires also a further development of the staff skillset.

In 2016, the Hear the World Foundation supports the project with hearing aids for all new pupils and substitute devices for pupils with analog hearing aids. Further the foundation provides funds for the staff training program, as well as the speech therapy services and regularly sends volunteers – employees of Sonova India, who support the project with their expertise.

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”One day I become a teacher” – the destiny of Guru

Just like his father and cousins, six-year-old Gurumoorthy, also called Guru, has congenital hearing loss. Although his hearing impairment was diagnosed when he was two years old, his parents could not afford hearing aids. He received his first hearing aids only when he joined the Rangammal School at age four. Since then, he has been making excellent progress with his speech and is the best pupil in his class. Gurumoorthy is visibly happy at school, even though he only sees his parents once a month, as – they live more than 30 kilometers away. However, his older cousins, who also attend the Rangammal Memorial School for the Hearing Impaired, comfort him when he feels homesick. Gurumoorthy likes the call of the crows in the morning outside his window, and his favorite activity is playing cricket with his best friend, Tanmuri, and the other boys at school. His favorite subject is environmental science. One day he wants to become a teacher. It may be destiny, rather than just a coincidence, that his name shortens to “Guru,” which means teacher.

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