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A Visit to Sopheak in Cambodia

28. March 2022

15 years Hear the World Foundation

In marking Hear the World Foundation’s 15th anniversary, we have been taking the time to recap and reconnect with our partner organizations, creating space to reflect on our achievements in terms of the lasting impact of our work and collaborative local efforts. An NGO we have been supporting since 2010, All Ears Cambodia (AEC), recently sent us an update on Sopheak, a 10-year old girl from Cambodia with severe hearing loss. Thanks to the hearing aids she was fitted with back in 2016, she has learned to speak and is able to attend a local public school. She hopes to continue her education and dreams of becoming a doctor.    

Sopheak, who lives with her grandparents in Kampong Thom province, was diagnosed with severe hearing loss as an infant. Her family first noticed a problem with her hearing around the age of one, long before she would have been expected to talk. She was not responding to everyday sounds and they would have to gently tap her to get her attention. The cause of her hearing loss remains unknown and she was unable to hear most sounds. She was trapped in silence, never learned sign language and was incapable of clearly articulating the few words she had. At a stage when other young children already communicate in complex sentences, Sopheak finally received her hearing aids.

The effects on her life have been profound. Sopheak is now enrolled in the fourth grade of a local state school. Her active vocabulary and speech clarity are steadily improving. While she still has some catching up to do, she has reached a solid level of reading comprehension and is diligently working on her articulation. Her favorite subject is math and she enjoys school life and has made friends. While she was able to keep up with her studies at home with the help of her grandmother throughout the lockdown phases of the pandemic, the poor audio of online classes were often an insurmountable obstacle.  

At home, Sopheak enjoys drawing and playing outside with her cousins, doing her homework and reading. A creative and curious mind, she loves to accompany her grandmother on outings to Phnom Penh, where her favorite spot is watching the pigeons in the Royal Palace gardens. Through it all, her hearing aids are an integral part of her life – she wears them all day, every day and manages them mostly on her own. Her perseverance makes for a truly inspiring story – but more importantly, it will enable her to live an independent life, continue to learn and overcome the challenges of her hearing loss.

Our project partner AEC has transformed the lives of many of its patients like Sopheak since its beginnings in 2003 as a one-man clinic run by British-born Glyn Vaughan. Today, its 28 employees across five clinics in Cambodia provide hearing healthcare, run important prevention campaigns and much-needed training programs for local audiologists. Many of their patients are children living in abject poverty. As a long-term sponsor, Hear the World Foundation has been financially supporting the organization with hearing aids, batteries and on-site expertise, in addition to funding a lab at the clinic in Siem Reap, where ear plugs and ear molds for hearing aids are manufactured with state-of-the-art technology.

Read more about the #HearCambodia project.