We took around 75 of our students (out of around 90) to a town about 4-5 hours away to get hearing aids provided by a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization).
I have lots of thoughts so I’ve been putting off blogging about this. I have so many thoughts that they’re all overlapping and I don’t know where to start. I think I will just make a few different posts instead of one long rambling post. I’ll just start with how things were set up.
We all piled onto a school bus (borrowed from a nearby secondary school)..actually…we all were crammed onto it. There were 5 kids in some seats that were only for 3 kids….kind of reminds me of my junior high school days.
Anyways, we arrived at the Starkey’s Operation Ear Drop event.
The set up was assembly-line style, perhaps similar to the army. There were easily at least 500 other people there, mostly deaf schools.
We arrived and all the kids dashed off to the choos. Us teachers were given a big trash bag full of earmolds that had been made previously. I guess they came to the school to do that a while back when I wasn’t around and I think they gave the kids a hearing test as well.
It was a bit confusing trying to match the names up with each child. I wasn’t involved with this since I was trying to make sure all the kids stayed together in one group. Teachers didn’t know the names of all the kids and not all the Classes 0-1 kids knew their names…that made for some very confusing moments.
We then lined up to register. Each child was given a form along with their earmolds. The people who were doing registration didn’t really know any sign language but they had been taught the basic “how old are you” and how to sign the numbers in KSL. That didn’t mean that successful communication always occurred but I give them props for acknowledging that they needed to sign with these kids. Again, not all the kids knew their age…..
We were then scooted into yet another line.
No explanations whatsoever to me or the kids. It was all “come here,” “go there,” “sit,” or “wait” …and none of that was even signed to the kids, it was all gesturing or spoken when the child wasn’t even looking at the person to lip-read him/her. They were scared and kept asking me what was going on and if certain things would hurt (so I tried to figure out what was going on by using visual clues and lip-reading the NGO staff from a distance and was trying to reassure them).
The first line had a man who looked into each child’s ear to see if they had wax. If they had wax then they were then sent to one of the other two lines (the using water to get wax out line or the using a video camera + some tool to get wax out line). If they didn’t have wax, they were sent off to sit on a bench where a woman came over and put each child’s earmolds into their ears.
Not all the earmolds fit well at all…some were way too big.
So at this point we had kids scattered in different places. Some kids were bounced back and forth between the “use water to soften the wax” and the “video camera + tool to get the wax out” lines. Not sure why, but it was a different staff each time so I’m not sure if it was confusion or if there was a reasoning behind it.
Kids who for some reason didn’t have any earmolds given to them were sent to yet another line. There was a big table with tons of different pre-made earmolds, a man would try to find one that fit the child “good enough.”
After the earmolds, kids were then sent outside. Again, by this point we had kids in 6 different lines…some inside and some outside…. At this point, people were trying to talk to the kids and not sign…. Kids were utterly confused, worried, and unsure.
I did take a few pictures just to try to show the set-up but didn’t take very many (only a couple) because I didn’t want to make it into a bigger deal than it already was. Kids were already out of their comfort zone and they didn’t need/want any more attention drawn to them.
Kids were then called up one-by-one to a “stage/porch” where around 6 or 7 people were fitting hearing aids for each child. Not all the people knew sign language but I do give props for those who tried. They had KSL interpreters on staff as well. There were two situations when I was asked to help interpret….erhmmm?!?!?
Anyways, the fitting basically went something like this. A random hearing aid would be selected and stuck in the child’s ear, then they would ask the child if they could hear anything. If not, they would try a different hearing aid. Once the child could hear something, they would then ask the child if it was too loud or soft. Once the child said it was okay, the child was then asked to make nonsense sounds. The child was also supposed to response to sounds (e.g. clapping behind them). This was a bit problematic with many of our students because some of them don’t have language and so many of our students are young. What baffled me was I didn’t see a single audiogram and I didn’t see any indication on the paperwork that would suggest a child had a certain type of hearing loss/hearing aids.
They were then sent over to yet another line/station where they were taught how to use their hearing aids (e.g. don’t get it wet, put batteries in/out, how to turn it on/off, etc.). For some reason they didn’t feel the need to teach the younger kids how to take care of their hearing aids. I’m pretty sure I learned at a young age how to take care of mine and I know many deaf kids are expected to be responsible for that as well.
Kids were rewarded with stickers and a medal.
We then piled back onto the bus and headed back to the school.
More to come later……