Nikki came on the Summer Team 2018 trip and was our first ever audiologist to be on team. Here are her reflections on her experience:
A team of 6 teachers for the hearing impaired, one IT specialist and me, an audiologist, went out to Uganda for a 2 week trip. The main aim of the trip was to hold a conference for teachers of both mainstream and deaf schools to assist them in their teaching of English and phonics. The two day conferences were held at the Uganda School for the Deaf and also in a mainstream school in Entebbe. These were both very well attended and received by all the teachers; we had very good feedback and also suggestions of what they would like the focus to be next year.
From an audiological point of view I was not really needed to help with the conferences, however my skills were definitely appreciated at the Uganda School for the Deaf clinic. The Headmaster, Jackson, is also a qualified audiologist and as well as running his school he also serves the local deaf community providing hearing tests, advice and also hearing aids when necessary.
As we arrived and looked around his school I note that very few of the deaf children have hearing aids. They mainly sign and do not use their voices much to communicate. I am shown the clinic rooms that he has and the equipment available to him. Luckily I came with a large supply of donated hearing aids to help. The clinic is a small bungalow, with beds still in 2 of the rooms. He has 1 room set up with a small desk and a couple of chairs and a small screening audiometer for testing, the second set up with grinder and drill to make the ear moulds and the 3rdroom has a laptop and a very old Hipro box for programming the hearing aids. I soon discover that there is no timetable or appointments system, people who have concerns with their ears or hearing just turn up at the school and wait to be seen.
It took most of my first week to sort through what he had and what he still needed and then to download the updated software needed to program the aids I had brought. Luckily we were able to find some software for the Phonak aids online and I had brought one disc with me for Oticon aids. Jackson is still missing some software but I am hoping to send this to him soon. The Hipro box does not run real ear measurements and so the fitting of aids is a simple click and fit. I spent some time showing Jackson how the new software works and how to program the new aids I had brought him. To make things a bit easier for Jackson I spent a lot of my time out there pre -programming 185 hearing aids to set hearing losses so if he is unable to programme an aid specifically for a patient at least he can pick a pre-programmed one to suit their hearing loss.
I saw around 30 patients both adults and children during my time in the clinic and managed to provide them all with good, well programmed aids to suit their hearing thresholds. Many of the children I saw, from the Uganda School for the Deaf, were using very old analogue aids so for them it would have been quite different with the digital technology. I hope that they have adjusted well to the new aids.
I think the gifts of aids and equipment is vital for the running of Jackson’s service but also feel that more valuable than that is the gift of time. Time to spend training in new technologies and in new methods and time to actually see patients.