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Kenya: Rollercoaster week

01. October 2020

A Rollercoaster Week in Kenya

By  Sonova volunteer Yovina Khiroya, Clinical Audiologist and Regional Sales Manager at Phonak GB

In February, a team of seven Sonova volunteers travelled to Kenya to support the great work of the Hear the World Foundation – and one of them was: me! As I am passionate about helping others, I was excited to be part of a professional team to support the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program of the Kijabe Hospital. Our common goal: to improve the quality of life for children with hearing loss.
We started on February 10th 2020 – and it turned out to become a rollercoaster week! After landing in Nairobi the night before the #HearKenya team set off at 6.30am for Kijabe – a journey which in theory should take an hour but actually took closer to three!
Kijabe is a mountainous village roughly 45km north of Nairobi. It is home to the AIC Kijabe Hospital where the #HearKenya project is taking place. In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that that Kenyans are more afflicted by hearing loss compared to the global average of five people with hearing difficulties in every 100. This has a huge impact on the education of children in Kenya. The number of deaf graduates in Kenya is incredibly low. The Hear the World Foundation has been supporting the audiology department for the past two years, this was the first visit to Kijabe. One of the goals of this visit was to provide some face to face training for the two local audiologists, Elizabeth and Jonathan, as well as carrying out hearing screenings in the local population and to raise hearing health awareness.
The #HearKenya team consisted of seven members including myself: Laura Meng, Ora Buerkli, Sylvester Feijoo, Barbara Muench, Jasmine Opoku-Ware and our photographer Christoph Höhmann. As soon as we arrived in Kijabe we hit the ground running! The week we were in Kenya had been advertised on the AIC Kijabe hospital Facebook page which has over 21,000 followers. Patients had travelled as far as Mombasa, which is a nine hour drive, to be seen. When we entered the audiology department it was immediately clear that resources were extremely limited: from lack of soundproofing and calibrated equipment to visual reinforcement audiometry capabilities and REM ppliances. Luckily, the Hear the World Foundation were prepared and donated a variety of equipment including tympanometers, OAE and ABR testing instruments. Sylvester and Barbara were on hand to train Jonathan and Elizabeth on the equipment.
During the week Jasmine spent most of her time with Jonathan training him on various diagnostic audiometry methods whilst also seeing adult patients. Ora and I spent most of our time with Elizabeth training on paediatric testing and fitting techniques whilst also screening paediatric patients. Due to a lack of a formal audiology training scheme in Kenya, Jonathan and Elizabeth are mostly self-taught. Thanks to the Hear the World Foundation, Elizabeth has been on a training programme paediatric audiology in Lübeck, Germany on. Hence, it was a fairly intensive week for training! However, Jonathan and Elizabeth have a keen hunger to learn more and are incredibly receptive to constructive feedback.
In addition to all the training, between two clinic rooms over two hundred patients were seen within the five days we were at AIC Kijabe Hospital. For some of them it was a life changing moment, for example for little Grace: She received her very first hearing aids. It will take some time for her to get used to this new world full of sounds, but soon she will wear her hearing aids with joy – and improve her speech skills, I am sure!
The time we spent in Kenya was challenging however incredibly rewarding. Although the week may be over, Hear the World is dedicated to long-term support for all of its projects. The audiology clinic at AIC Kijabe Hospital will no doubt change the face of current audiology practice in Kenya and become the gold standard clinic within the country with the support of Hear the World.