Every year, millions of tourists flock to the Dominican Republic. However, everyday life in one of the poorest countries in Latin America has very little in common with the holiday idyll. Accessing medical care is beyond reach for many Dominicans, of whom almost half live in slums. The Centro Cristiano de Servicios Médicos aims at providing the Dominican population with first-class yet affordable medical care. The center runs five clinics which are strategically spread across the country in order to improve access to medical care for the rural population.

Place & Year

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, since 2010

Awards

Richard Seewald Award

Support

Technology Funding 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.

Albert’s story – how hearing aids bring hope

Albert Acosta is nine years old and was born with moderate to severe hearing loss. His mother died two years ago, therefore Albert and his two brothers live together with other relatives at their grandmother’s house in a Santo Domingo slum. Their grandmother’s neighbor Jenny, who is a friend of Albert’s late mother, helps to look after the three boys. Jenny recently took Albert to the Centro Cristiano where he was fitted with digital hearing aids. The new hearing aids are not only making it easier for Albert to follow his lessons in school, but also help him to enjoy spending time with his friends. Because hearing aids, are very valuable items in the Dominican Republic Albert can only ever wear his new hearing aids at home, at school, or when he is with an adult, otherwise they would most likely get stolen.

The partnership between the Centro Cristiano and Hear the World Foundation started with the financing of professional audiological diagnostic instruments in 2010. In parallel, the project also set-up an audiological education program to train local experts. The center now employs 15 qualified audiologists, who offer the Dominican population top-quality audiological care at three clinics. In recent years, modern digital hearing aids as well as more accurate fitting with first-class audiological equipment has been made possible thanks to support provided by the Hear the World Foundation. Now the cooperation has reached yet another milestone: the establishment of a newborn hearing screening program on the Caribbean island. To be able to provide high standard care to the increased number of patients who will now come to the Centro Cristiano for follow-up care, a new audiology clinic has been opened. The clinic hosts a speech therapy room, a sound proof booth and a laboratory. It is thanks to the support of the Hear the World Foundation that the new equipment could be acquired. The booth is set up to screen these young children while they sleep. At the laboratory, the trained experts can produce ear molds and react quickly to upcoming needs and requests. The new audiology clinic is already in full swing and ready to welcome all of the new patients.

Based on annual birthrates, we can assume a minimum of 400 newborns with congenital hearing impairment per year.»
Nicole Hunter, Hospital Administrator of Centro Cristiano de Servicios Médicos

Early diagnosis as the key to a better future

At the moment, newborns in the Dominican Republic do not undergo hearing screenings. As a consequence of this most children with hearing loss are only diagnosed at around 18-24 months of age. If an infant does not receive sufficient auditory stimuli, or even receives no stimuli at all, this may severely delay their language acquisition and may even prevent them from ever learning to speak. Deficiencies at this stage of development are extremely difficult to overcome later on. In partnership with Santo Domingo’s largest public hospital where 19,000 babies are born annually, a team of audiologists from the Centro Cristiano will in the future be testing babies’ hearing just a few days after birth, using state of the art audiological equipment. “Based on annual birthrates, we can assume a minimum of 400 newborns with congenital hearing impairment per year.” says Nicole Hunter, Hospital Administrator of Centro Cristiano de Servicios Médicos. It is anticipated that a comprehensive newborn hearing screening program will enable over 2,000 infants to be provided with hearing aids in the Centro Cristiano over the next five years.

Supporting self-sufficiency

Sonova employees regularly travel to the Dominican Republic to train local specialists, thereby ensuring that hearing aids are expertly fitted. Sonova employee Olga recently visited the Centro Cristiano: “This visit was an extremely rewarding experience for me, both professionally and personally. It reminded me why I became an audiologist – to help people and make their lives better!”


The Hear the World Foundation's prize is named after Professor Dr. Richard Seewald, who is well known for his tireless efforts in pediatric audiology over many decades. He spearheaded the development of an internationally recognized DSL method for fitting hearing systems to children. Prior to his retirement, Seewald held the Canada Research Chair in Childhood Hearing at that country's National Centre for Audiology, which he co-founded. He is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Western Ontario.