The Starkey Hearing Foundation, founded in 1984 by William F. Austin, began in Minnesota and has since expanded. Currently, Starkey Hearing Foundation services over 100 countries around the world. In 2010, the Foundation made a commitment with the Clinton Global Initiative to provide 1 million hearing aids to those in need by 2020.
According to The World Health Organization, approximately 466 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss, and around 34 million of those affected are children. Deafness and hearing loss have drastic consequences to people living in impoverished countries. Children who are affected by hearing loss during their developmental stages are more likely to be prevented from attending schooling and prevented from attaining a job. Adults with deafness or hearing loss have a high probability for social isolation, limited occupational abilities and lower earnings.
These effects are especially apparent in El Salvador, a country with an estimated deaf population of 15,000 and a GDP of approximately $4,200 per capita. In a country with little economic opportunity, those with hearing disabilities are often discriminated against in the workplace, personal and public life. In addition to the adversity deaf and hearing impaired people experience in El Salvador, most cannot afford access to the necessary healthcare to treat their conditions, including basics like hearing aids and their subsequent upkeep.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation in El Salvador
The Starkey Hearing Foundation recently completed another hearing mission to San Salvador, El Salvador, where patients were given hearing aids and other services free of charge. The Foundation completed their first hearing mission to San Salvador, El Salvador, in 1997, and has done multiple others since. During their most recent mission, they were able to see former patient, Juan Carlo, who was fit for a hearing aid when he was three years old. Since then, Carlo has graduated high school and been successful in the professional field, thanks to the access to hearing that Starkey Foundation gave him.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation completes their hearing missions under a community-based hearing healthcare system comprised of three main stages:
- The first stage of this system is patient identification. The Foundation identifies and trains workers in the area where they are planning a hearing mission. The workers then screen people with hearing impairments and give them the primary ear-care treatments they need. After giving primary care to potential hearing aid candidates, the workers take ear impressions and create custom molds for hearing aids.
- Phase two of the program is when the hearing mission takes place. The Starkey Hearing Foundation begins by fitting hearing aids on qualified patients. They then counsel the hearing aid recipients on how to care for and operate hearing aids, including providing aftercare information so patients can continue their ear-care when the Foundation leaves the area.
- The third and last phase of the hearing mission is executing the aftercare program. The Starkey team provides monthly aftercare appointments at a central location to give patients additional care including counseling, batteries, repairs and replacements free of charge to the patients. The Starkey Hearing Foundation then evaluates the program and team and begins to evaluate and identify future patients for the next hearing mission in the area.
By providing hearing aids and ear care to patients in impoverished countries who would not otherwise be able to afford the treatments, the Starkey Hearing Foundation offers patients a chance to success. With their hearing aids and care, patients are able to gain and education and participate in the workforce, securing them more economic success and helping end their poverty.