first audiological studies in jamaica

Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and The Bahamas – what sounds like a list of favorite holiday destinations are the campuses of the only university in the world with locations in four different countries. The University of the West Indies (UWI), founded in 1962, is the oldest university in the Caribbean and the only regional academic education to focus its curriculum on the needs of the Caribbean countries. Even though the tradition-steeped University of the West Indies has more than 40,000 registered students and produces 6,000 graduates annually, there is still no education for audiologists available there. Although competent audiologists are urgently needed in the Caribbean countries, to date no one has been able to learn the profession there. The Jamaican physician, Prof. Maureen Samms-Vaughan, wanted to change that.

Place & Year

Jamaica, 2011


Richard Seewald Award


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.

Professional academic education thanks to Canadian partner university

“We urgently need audiological care in Jamaica, training courses in speech therapy and the paediatric care could also be much improved”, demands Prof. Samms-Vaughan. In order to add authority to this requirement, the committed physician conducted her own research studies – with success! She has found a competent partner to support her in the shape of the Canadian Dalhousie University. The first course of studies “Master Program in Audiology” started in September 2011, a commitment that also impressed the Hear the World Foundation and was presented with the Prof. John Bamford Award. The technical and administrative equipment of the studies is financed as part of the award.

Detecting hearing loss at an early stage

The consequences of an undiscovered hearing loss in childhood are dramatic, as it is in the very first six years of life that the foundations for linguistic development are laid in a child’s brain. Yet, something that is usually a matter of course in the first world countries, i.e. the fact that the hearing ability of new born babies is already tested in the clinic, is still far too rare a case in the Caribbean. In order to ensure such care, sound training, which forms the basis of professional health care services, is required. Prof. Samms-Vaughan has a very clear goal in mind: “I would like my work and my research to make a real and recognizable difference to the development and the lives of Jamaican children.”

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.