1,806 patients in three days! Wow! How can we begin to tell you about those three mindblowing days on the Starkey Hearing Foundation hearing mission to Armenia, and the days surrounding it?
To start, we were in the beautiful city of Yerevan during a very special time. We helped celebrate the city’s 2,799th birthday! What history!
Outside the hotel, 13 hot air balloons were setting off as we left our hotel to start our uplifting work. It also happened to be “City Day” in Yerevan. What an incredible start to the day!
The Fountains in Republic Square were dancing to traditional Armenian music, there were fireworks we could see from our hotel- the city was alive and celebrating its rich history, and to commemorate this, each street had some form of decoration to celebrate its birthday.
The team of audiologists, ready and raring to go on their first day!
The first day we were really just trying to get in the swing of things. Only a few patients were scheduled be seen on that day, but still, hundreds of seats were filled as we walked in on that morning! These patients were bussed in from the Northern regions of Armenia - some travelling for over 5 hours. We soon got into the routine.
Lindsay’s first patient hadn’t heard in over 20 years. Within a few moments of fitting him with hearing aids, he heard speech properly for the first time. He was overjoyed and grateful that he could hear again, he could hardly control his emotions. What a start!
This mother and son had been using sign language to communicate all their lives, with hardly any usable hearing to help them. Lee helped them both hear for the first time - now they have to learn to use their voices with each other. Lee had to enlist help from both a sign language interpreter and an Armenian translator to get the job done. A career first for him!
There was a news segment that aired on the 1st and 2nd day of the mission, covering the events. We ended up having hundreds of extra walk-in patients! Fantastically, no one was turned away and solutions were devised there and then. Spare or stock earmolds were used for these patients, until their own custom moulds could be made and fitted at an aftercare session.
One of our most memorable fittings occurred on our 2nd day. Both Lee and Lindsay fitted an entire family with hearing aids! First, we fit the son, who was 4 years old. Next was his mother, then his father. The whole family had significant hearing loss and didn’t use much speech to communicate - sign language is a huge part of the deaf community here, a mode of communication for even mild hearing losses. They all couldn’t wait to get home to hear the rest of their family!
This little girl wasn’t sure about Lee, or in fact many of the staff….
Once Lee fitted her with hearing aids, she recognised that she could now hear sound! It’s incredible how something we all take for granted has such an impact on all ages. She was given a phone with music playing so that she could hear music for the first time with her new hearing aids. When Tani Austin, Co Founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation tried to clap along she soon made it clear that interrupting the music was not allowed!
This little girl was amazed about the fact that she could now hear!
After our hearing work was done, we had a day to tour around and explore the city. The most touching part of our tour was visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex. This breathtaking open-style monument has an eternal flame in the center. Guests at the monument place fresh flowers around the flame to pay their respects for those who lost their lives.
One of the sponsors of our trip, Arman Kavoukjian, shared stories from his grandmother and one of his patients in California. There was not a dry eye in the area. Such a horrific and tragic history, that is not even recognised by some countries. This gave so much more meaning to the work we had done in days prior. These patients are fighters, it is in their genes to be fighters, and it was very touching that we were able to help them in this small way.
On our last night, we went for a traditional Armenian meal with all the volunteers. Needless to say we had a blast.
We naturally communicate using language, which connects us. When that connection is lost, it is difficult to communicate. This experience has opened our eyes to an entirely different concept of communication, not just dealing with hearing loss, but a language barrier too.
Being a part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation mission to Armenia back in October was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
The bonds created with the 60+ mission volunteers and over 1,800 patients is hard to describe. We can confidently say that being part of William F. Austin’s 50 year legacy is a source of pride for anyone that volunteers and becomes a “Starkey Hearing Angel”.
If you would like to donate your unwanted or unused hearing aids, pop into our practice with your unwanted hearing aids and receive a free pack of batteries along with a huge thank you.
We will arrange for them to be reconditioned and may even personally fit them on our next hearing aid mission.
We are genuinely passionate about this and have witnessed first hand the delight on people’s faces when they receive the gift of hearing.
You can also donate on our Just Giving page, helping to fund our next missions! - https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hearingaidmission
Lee & Lindsay Regain Hearing