Hearing is an important sense for learning and communication. Yet many things can go wrong in our auditory system to compromise our ability to hear and to lower our quality of life. Wanting to help vulnerable and underserved populations, I embarked on a trip to work with several like-minded colleagues to examine the hearing status of children and adults in Brazil and to investigate the candidacy of an automatic hearing screening app (that my lab developed) for mass-hearing screening.
In the four months, we examined the hearing of more than 1200 children and adults in four Brazilian states, including an Amazonian riverine community which was accessible only by boat. The data provided valuable evidence on children’s general ear and hearing status as well as information on whether they could be tested reliably and accurately using the automatic hearing test app.
Although there is mandate for screening the hearing of infant and school children, the shortage of qualified professionals led to low infant hearing screening rates (<50% in most locations) and a diverse level of rigor for the school hearing screenings. As hearing health care is only available in the secondary and tertiary care hospitals/centers in Brazil, accessibility issues and long wait time often results in the lack of or delays in services. My collaborators and I have been preparing for manuscripts to summarize our clinical findings. We hope the published papers will provide evidence for the advocacy of more speedy, higher availability, and better quality of hearing services for children and adults in Brazil.
Teaching was another component of the trip. The students were very much interested in knowing more about hearing aid technologies and calibration of equipment. Above all, they were most enthusiastic about humanitarian audiology. Every time after hearing my research and service experiences in other countries, a group of students would come to the front to submit their names to join future humanitarian endeavors. Their interests were keen and the young minds were already ready to serve others!
The experiences of living like locals and gaining understanding of the people were invaluable. The opportunity to see the beauty of the host country was also incredible. In the process of working with my Brazilian collaborators: Drs. Deborah Ferrari, Magali de Lourdes Caldana, Sheila Balen, Hannalice Gottschalck, and Andrea Cintra Lopes, we developed a life-long circle of friends and we are continuing our collaboration. I encourage anyone who is interested in working in a foreign country, to apply for a Fulbright award and be a goodwill ambassador.
King Chung – Fulbright to Brazil 2019