At a music festival in Rio de Janeiro, Johnny Depp and his Hollywood Vampire band mates, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, delivered more than just the gift of music; they also gave the gift of sound. The artists along with the Starkey Hearing Foundation helped fit customized hearing devices for over two hundred people while on tour. The people who received the devices varied in age, and their hearing losses varied from developmental to acquired. The musicians described the experience as moving, and the clients they served were delighted with their new devices. The Starkey Hearing Foundation holds events all over the world in order to give hearing aids to those in need. They've donated 1.6 million hearing aids to people in over 100 countries.
There are many humanitarian foundations that deliver hearing devices to individuals in third world countries. One of our very own professors, Dr. Ryals, worked towards a cause similar to this in Kenya with HEARt of the Village, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the lives and hearing health of children affected by diseases of poverty. According to her, the real challenge and purpose of this type of work should be on sustainability. Dr. Ryals put it best in saying, “It’s not glamorous.” She explained that fitting a hearing aid is only the first step. Once receiving the devices, people need access to audiologists, batteries, and other materials to maintain their hearing aids. According to Hearing for Humanity, the population in Kenya is over 40 million people, but in 2010, there were only 5 audiologists in the country. Dr. Ryals stated that celebrities are great at bringing awareness to a company or a cause, but it’s up to professionals to sustain the health and aid of the individuals that are served.
As CSD students, it is hard to think about our futures beyond our upcoming midterms, graduation, or graduate school. However, when you are stressed or wondering where you are going to end up when school is over, remember that there are people all over the world with speech, language, and hearing problems that need services. Our school work and future career work may not always be glamorous, but it is our job to follow up raising awareness with action using our knowledge as Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. People with communication impairments don't necessarily need celebrities to help them; they need someone like you.
Below are just a couple of links to non-profit organizations that do humanitarian work focused on improving hearing health: