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Donation of Cochlear Implants Helps Ten Children With Hearing Loss in Vietnam to Listen and Speak

Elena Torresani, Paige Stringer, MA

June 3, 2019
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Interview with Elena Torresani, Director of Hear the World Foundation and Paige Stringer, Founder and Executive Director of the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss regarding their organizations' partnership in Vietnam.

 

AudiologyOnline: Thank you both for being with us today. Elena, could you share an overview of Hear the World Foundation and its global impact?

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Elena Torresani: Founded in 2006 by Sonova, the leading provider of hearing solutions, the Hear the World Foundation supports presently 25 projects in 19 countries to help disadvantaged people with hearing loss, especially children, to improve their hearing. The foundation provides financial resources, the latest hearing technology and expertise to prevent, assess and treat hearing loss. The Hear the World Foundation primarily support projects that benefit children with hearing loss, because they still have their whole lives ahead of them. Our support enables them to hear, to learn to speak, to develop at the appropriate pace for their age, to have better opportunities in school and, in future, in their careers, and to live a life without limitations. We also support the parents of these children, as they play the most significant role in the development of their children. A key element of our work is building local capacity. We do this through teaching, consulting and on-site support through experts from our Advisory Board and Sonova Group Companies worldwide. And lastly, preventing hearing loss is also a concern for us. We use our campaigns and projects around the world to make the general public aware of the importance of good hearing and protecting hearing.

AudiologyOnline: Paige, could you tell us about the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss and the organization’s work in developing countries?

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Paige Stringer: The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss aims to make a direct and lasting impact on children around the world who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing them access to the early identification, hearing technology, locally-based expertise, and resources they need to learn to listen and talk and achieve their full potential. The Global Foundation collaborates with health care and education partners in developing countries to identify and address gaps in the local system of support for babies and young children with hearing loss and their families. A key goal of all our programs is to enable our in-country partners to provide sustainable care to their own children with hearing loss. We achieve this through professional development and family training programs, strengthening of pediatric hearing health and education systems, public awareness and media outreach, distribution of hearing technology to children supported by those we train, and support of research. Established in 2009, the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss currently has programs in Vietnam and Mongolia and previously in Ecuador. 

AudiologyOnline: How was the partnership between Hear the World Foundation and the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss formed?

Elena Torresani: Vietnam is a country close to a 100 million inhabitants and there is no funding for CI. In Vietnam, there are an estimated 1000 babies every year born deaf and probably around 200 of them are getting an implant. You are talking about the richer segment here. So eighty percent of those kids would need an implant but cannot get it. Since 2011, the Hear the World Foundation has been one of the supporters of the Global Foundation For Children with Hearing Loss’ program building up capacities in Vietnam. Thanks to this long lasting investment, the basis for a strong and sustainable CI Program has been built. 

Paige Stringer: Since 2010, the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss has conducted training programs in Vietnam to increase local expertise to support children with hearing loss and their families. Our multi-year curriculum provides instruction in pediatric audiology to medical practitioners and audiology technicians and in auditory-verbal practice to teachers and therapists across the country. We also provide hearing aids to children in need who are supported ongoing by the professionals we train. The Global Foundation volunteer team of Pediatric Audiologists and Listening and Spoken Language Specialists has trained over 250 professionals in Vietnam, directly benefiting about 1,000 children with hearing loss.

Several Vietnamese professionals we trained are now training others in the country, thus making our impact exponential and sustainable. The Global Foundation has also worked to raise awareness for the benefits of early identification of hearing loss and promoted the development of early intervention services in Vietnam. In part due to the Global Foundation’s efforts, Vietnam has developed a foundation of locally-based expertise and support that young children with hearing loss need to learn to listen and talk. Our CI Donation Program, in partnership with the Hear the World Foundation, helps families overcome financial costs associated with cochlear implants so that their children with significant hearing loss can access the sound they need to fully benefit from these local services.

AudiologyOnline: During the planning of this groundbreaking project, what was the main goal for the partnership?

Paige Stringer: In 2017, the Hear the World Foundation invited the Global Foundation to submit a proposal for a CI donation program that would help to mitigate some of the financial challenges that families in Vietnam face with regards to cochlear implants for their children with hearing loss. In designing the concept, the Global Foundation proposed that the program cover some of the ongoing costs associated with CIs beyond the initial device and surgery and provide support for audiology and therapy. It was also important to the Global Foundation that the project be carried out by local Vietnamese professionals. The proposal ultimately led to our partnership and this comprehensive CI Donation Program that is the first of its kind in Vietnam. 

The Global Foundation and its Vietnamese partners worked together to set up a process to identify, evaluate, and select the children to receive the donation. The CI Donation Program not only finances a cochlear implant and surgery for these selected children, but also covers repair costs and product upgrades for 15 years and provides financial support for habilitation services.

Vietnamese therapists working at early intervention centers and clinics that have long been associated with the Global Foundation’s training programs provide auditory-verbal therapy to the children after surgery. 

The Global Foundation was pleased to enter into this partnership with the Hear the World Foundation. We are providing 10 children with significant hearing loss in Vietnam with a complete package of product and services that they need to learn to listen and speak and the support of in-country professional expertise that the Global Foundation helped to put into place.

Elena Torresani: It was our very aim from the beginning to create a sustainable project that would not lead into being a financial burden for the families. This is why we are not just donating a CI and then walk away. We are actually committing to 15 years of support for the young patients. It’s great to see these kids getting implants they otherwise couldn’t afford and making sure the implant isn’t a burden for them or their families because of any follow-up costs for repairs and upgrades that are needed from time to time. That is the distinguishing factor in this project. A donation of cochlear implants is very complex: There is a surgery involved, there are continuous follow ups and also a rehab phase including auditory verbal therapy. We also need to make sure that the patient gets an upgrade every five years. The Hear the World Foundation is fortunate to be able to count on support from Volunteers from Sonova Vietnam and also Advanced Bionics in Singapore to deliver cochlear implants and provide the audiological support required as part of this project. These volunteers have a good understanding of the Vietnamese market and the logistics as well as the products of Advanced Bionics and make sure the project is successfully executed. 

AudiologyOnline: In terms of sustaining engagement and long-term success for the recipients, how will they continue their hearing journey?

Elena Torresani: As you know, one of our goals at Hear the World is sustainability and we take this responsibility very seriously. We chose to partner with the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss and Vietnam for this very reason. We would not have moved forward with a cochlear implant project without the appropriate follow-up in place. 

Sonova Vietnam works closely with the cochlear implant professionals in Vietnam; they are a skilled group who are well equipped to meet the needs of these children in the years following their implantation. We will continue to follow these children and monitor their progress and will be prepared to make adjustments along the way as necessary. Another part of the agreement was to support them and their product needs for 15 years, assuring working technology throughout this time and upgrades every 5 years, all at no cost to the families.

Beyond that, Hear the World is covering the cost for one year of auditory-verbal therapy for the children. 

Hear the World feels confident we have set up a scenario, along with our partner Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss, for these children to achieve success with their cochlear implant technology.

More information on this cochlear implant donation can be found here. A video of Tung Lam's story can be found here

 

About the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss

The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss is an international nonprofit organization based in the United States. It aims to make a direct and lasting impact on children 0-6 years of age around the world who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing them access to the early identification, hearing technology, trained professionals, and resources they need to learn to listen and talk and achieve their potential. The organization works with partners in low- and middle-income countries to identify gaps in hearing health care and early education support systems. It helps to develop locally-based expertise and services so that professionals in a country are equipped to provide sustainable care to children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss currently has programs in Vietnam and Mongolia. https://childrenwithhearingloss.org

About the Hear the World Foundation

Founded in 2006 by Sonova, the leading provider of hearing solutions, the Hear the World Foundation supports disadvantaged people with hearing loss around the world and gets involved in hearing loss prevention. The foundation focuses particularly on projects for children with hearing loss, enabling them to develop to their fullest potential. Since its establishment, the non-profit Swiss foundation has supported over 90 projects all around the world with funding, hearing aid technology and expertise. More than 100 high-profile ambassadors, such as Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Cindy Crawford, Annie Lennox, and Sting support Hear the World as ambassadors for conscious hearing. www.hear-the-world.com

2019 NIHL Series | 4 advanced-level live webinars | June 5, 12, 19, + 26 | 12:00 pm EDT | Guest Editor: Brian J. Fligor, ScD, PA


elena torresani

Elena Torresani

Director, Hear the World Foundation

Elena Torresani is Director of the Hear the World Foundation. In her role she is responsible for the Foundation’s operations and management. After completing her bachelor degree in business administration she worked in the Sponsorship Department for a large Swiss bank in both Zurich and New York. She joined Hear the World Foundation in 2009 and has taken over the foundation’s management in 2012.


paige stringer

Paige Stringer, MA

Founder and Executive Director, Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss

Paige Stringer established the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss in 2009 and has served as its Executive Director since inception. In addition to her duties at the Global Foundation, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Global Hearing Health and has contributed to efforts at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva to increase awareness for hearing loss, especially in children.