St. Lucia Partners U.S. Foundation.
PERSONS in St Lucia with hearing problems will soon be able to get assistance thanks to a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Starkey Hearing Foundation of the United States.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that more than 360 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss with the highest percentage in developing countries. However, half of all hearing loss is preventable through early detection and primary health care intervention.
It is with this thrust that officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness met with representatives of the Starkey Hearing Foundation to offer help to those who are hard of hearing.
Derek Johnson the foundation’s International Development Director for the Caribbean Region said: “Basically it goes back to when my founder Mr. William F. Austin started the Starkey Hearing Technologies. Anytime anybody would come for a hearing aid and could not afford to pay for that hearing aid, he felt that nobody should be excluded from the opportunity to hear. And so that mentality ended up snowballing. Now over 50 years into what is specifically the Starkey Hearing Foundation we go all over the world. We have a sustainable programme in over 52 countries now, St. Lucia is going to be 53.”
Studies have shown that hearing loss may result from complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, genetic causes, chronic ear infections, use of particular drugs, ageing and exposure to excessive noise. Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George indicated that the Ministry of Health welcomes this collaboration with the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
She said: “This foundation will help in strengthening our present hearing health programme here in St. Lucia. We presently have two hearing health clinics in the north and south of the island. They will not only provide training for our community nurses in the different wellness centres but they will also be providing support for persons who are screened and are found to have hearing issues. Patients will receive treatment, hearing aids and also the necessary follow-up to ensure sustainability of the programme. These are some of the gaps that we have noted in our programme here”
Dr. George added that an important aspect of the programme offered by the Starkey Hearing Foundation is in respect to hearing loss prevention.
She said: “Quite a few of our young persons who play very loud music, or use earphones constantly can also damage the inner ear. So that will also be a part of the programme that the Foundation will assist us with in terms of the preventative measures.”
The foundation also explained their model for the sustainability of the programme.
“We are not coming in as a foundation to try to establish something separate from what’s already taking place. What we want to do is to complement something that’s already on the ground.”
Dr. George expressed the Ministry of Health’s gratitude to the foundation for its timely support, highlighting the high cost of this intervention absorbed by the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which will directly benefit needy persons within the communities.