Communication Sciences & Disorders Faculty Provide Life-Changing Audiology Care in Central America
Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders Chair and Professor Lindsey Jorgensen, Ph.D., Au.D., and Audiology Clinic Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Practice Jennifer Phelan, Au.D., joined six other audiologists, three ear, nose and throat professionals (ENTs), several translators and other support staff in the trip to Guatemala.
While there, the group saw over 100 patients, including both children and adults. Patients were able to receive services such as hearing tests, ear cleaning, middle ear disease management and hearing aid fitting. They also were able to visit with ENTs if needed.
“Even in the U.S., it is a concerted effort to get everything done in one visit; services like these are typically done across several visits,” said Jorgensen. “We had to work together and be flexible to be able to provide all these services in a caring and quality manner to each person in a single day. Many of the patients traveled several hours by walking or taking the bus or other transportation methods, so returning the next day for more care was typically not an option.”
Jorgensen and Phelan were invited on the trip by Entheos Audiology Cooperative, a collective of hearing professionals who are committed to reconnecting with the larger purpose of their private practice through supporting nonprofits and programs that give the gift of healing to people around the world. As part of their mission, Entheos gives back through the nonprofit Hearing the Call, a charitable organization that brings hope and healing to persons who are hard of hearing.
Hearing the Call’s trip to Guatemala was sponsored by Jimmy Donaldson, an Internet star and philanthropist who goes by the name “Mr. Beast.” On May 7, Donaldson uploaded a YouTube video where he pledged to gift hearing aids to 1,000 people. The services that Jorgensen and Phelan provided helped fulfill that promise.
“We wanted to provide hearing health care to patients who really need it and to grow as individuals and audiologists,” said Jorgensen. “We saw a child who was told not to come to school because his hearing loss made it too difficult for him to learn. We saw an adult who stated that they would be able to go back to work and support their family because of the devices we provided.
“I feel that we were making a difference in not only their family interactions but also in their ability to support their family,” Jorgensen added.
Jorgensen and Phelan said they wanted to embark on a medical mission and experience other cultures while also staying committed to evidence-based practice. This trip allowed them to do both.
“Throughout my career, I have always wanted to go on a humanitarian trip, but never found a group where I supported their global mission,” said Phelan. “In this trip, I found not just that, but I also found a place where I was able to deepen my personal practice and where I could further support graduate clinicians.”
“I am both an educator and an audiologist, and this trip allowed me to be both while pushing myself,” said Jorgensen. “I always say my job as an audiologist is part hearing devices and part family/friend relationships. On this trip, my job as an audiologist included fitting hearing devices while also building relationships and ensuring that our patients could support their families.”
In the future, the group hopes to bring students on the trip to Guatemala, and Jorgensen and Phelan played an important role in helping the organization set up a system for student learning.