MERIDIAN – A recent humanitarian mission with Idaho Condor and Idaho State University has left several Peruvian villagers hearing more clearly, and one ISU student seeing more clearly.
For the third year in a row, students, faculty and alumni of ISU’s audiology department traveled to Peru to provide audiology services for villagers, equipping 24 of them with new hearing aids.
The trip had a profound impact on student Bailey Neuhaus who says she’d like to participate in more community outreach opportunities when she completes her schooling at ISU.
“I had a pretty good idea that I wanted to do outreach in my career and now it has really sunk in that this is what I want to do. It doesn’t have to be in a developing country, even helping people in the U.S., who might not have the access that I have to health care,” she said.
Neuhaus, who will begin her third year in the audiology program at ISU-Meridian this fall, was accompanied by Gabe Bargen, associate professor of audiology at ISU-Meridian in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, along with two ISU audiology alumni, Jacob Diller, of Boise, and Deanna Gende, of Long Beach, California. This was Diller’s third trip.
Idaho Condor, a national nonprofit working to provide free medical care to the indigent of Peru, has a Peruvian physician working with them to determine the needs of villagers and where the services would be most beneficial. In addition to audiology services, care volunteers in the areas of young women’s health, dental, pharmacy, and nursing provided services during the trip.
“These experiences are so important for faculty and students. The cultural perspectives that can be brought back to the classroom and to our clinic settings really enhance the learning and practice environment here in Idaho,” said Rex Force, ISU vice president for health sciences.
The audiology team this year saw 204 people as they traveled through five different villages near Cuzco, Peru during Spring Break, March 17-27. The patients were mostly adults and just a few children, many walking for several hours to stand in line for audiology services including hearing tests and ear cleanings. Of the total, 24 were given a hearing aid and a one-year supply of batteries. The hearing devices were donated by manufacturers ReSound and Oticon, while the batteries were donated by a battery manufacturer based in China called Zeni Power.
The materials to make the earmolds were donated by Westone. “We looked in their ears, and removed ear wax from 62 of the people. We looked for infection, and saw six ear infections,” Neuhaus said.
“We also fit several individuals with hearing protection, such as ear plugs, because of where they worked. Some of those in the farming and construction industry didn’t understand the importance of protecting their ears from loud sounds, and wondered why they would need to wear ear plugs,” Neuhaus said. The translator explained to them that ear protection would prevent their hearing from getting worse.
Neuhaus said one of the most interesting parts of the trip was that the translator assigned to the audiology team was able to give the villagers instructions about their devices and recommendations about their quality of hearing without any guidance from the audiology team.
Both Neuhaus and Bargen said they would like to go to Peru again with Idaho Condor. “My favorite part was watching Bailey, Jacob and Deanna work,” Bargen said. “There were moments where I could stop and look around the room and see all three of them working and functioning on their own. It was awesome to see that.”
For Neuhaus, the experience demonstrated firsthand how the practice of audiology has the power to improve lives around the world. “We learn in class how important communication is. It was really great to see them (the villagers) interacting with their families after we fit them with a hearing aid or cleaned their ears and they were able to hear better,” she said.