By David Young
MIRACLES are a rare commodity, and to witness one in the making a rare opportunity, but three took place in Panama recently for children from disadvantaged families who for the first time heard their mother’s speak.
Seeing the surprised face of a young child hearing sound from the lips of a mother for the first time is an inspiring and heartwarming memory to be treasured.
It was the final stage in a project initiated by the Swiss based Hear The World Foundation and their local project partner the Fundación Pro Integración (FUNPROI) that had started months before with the assessment of children with profound hearing loss, with three finally chosen to get the gift of hearing through cochlear implants.
The painstaking selection process involved a strict medical protocol and evaluating the parents to ensure that they would be able to attend pre –implant training lectures and play a continuing active role in the intensive three times a week follow up monitoring sessions including speech therapy over several years.
The implants surgeries were done at Hospital de Especialidades Pediátricas , and the completion of the miracle took place at the Fundación Pro Integración offices in Marbella, without political fanfare and photo ops.
The computerized activation process was conducted by a Hear the World volunteer and Advanced Bionics Clinical Manager and supported by FUNPROI staff.
The engagement was a pinnacle to the support the Hear the World Foundation has provided to the Panamanian non-profit organization since 2013 and marked another milestone in the Swiss foundation’s 10-year history.
If left untreated, hearing loss can have serious consequences, particularly for children.
Children who cannot hear, or can barely hear, do not learn to speak and, in many countries, are not able to attend school, which lowers their chances of pursuing a career and leading an independent life.
Until now, children who did not benefit from even the most powerful hearing aids have been denied the chance of better hearing. That’s why for the first time, the Hear the World Foundation donated implants to the three Panamanian children, in collaboration with Sonova subsidiary Advanced Bionics.
A Cochlea Implant is an electronic hearing prosthesis with two components: the implant which is placed under the skin by surgery and the speech processor with a headset which is worn behind the ear or on the body.
The usual cost of the procedure ranges from $25 000 to $30,000 without the follow up trainings programs say local authorities
“The first cochlear implants donation is an important step for us,” says Lukas Braunschweiler, President of the Hear the World Foundation. “By leveraging another advanced technology from the Sonova product portfolio, we can now also give the gift of hearing to children with profound or total hearing loss.”
A statement on the Hearing Foundation’s web site says:
“Although Panama is ranked the second most competitive economy in Latin America according to the World Economic Forum, a large percentage of the population is living in poverty, and is lacking access to audiological care.
“ While the health sector is making major progress in terms of its audiological care infrastructure, the state-run healthcare system can only cover the costs of audiological care for a handful of those living in poverty.”
That is why, since 2013, the Hear the World Foundation has supported supports the Fundación pro Integración (FUNPROI, www.funproi.org), one of the few institutions in the country which closes this gap by providing ear medical care to children living in poverty. By providing hearing aids, funding and expertise, hundreds of children have been helped.
FUNPROI was honored with the Richard Seewald Award in 2014, an annual recognition by the Hear the World Foundation to honor outstanding engagements.