On March 7th, a plane of students and faculty from the School of Communication Science and Disorders landed in Atlanta. The plane ride marked the end of a trip to Panajachel, Guatemala, where the group gave the gift of hearing to children and adults.
Through Porch de Salomon, an outreach organization, Selena Snowden, her husband, and Halle Van Oss led a group of students that assisted in building a home and provided hearing services to the indigenous people of Panajachel. Interpreters helped the group navigate the language barriers, as most of the people in Guatemala speak Spanish or Kaqchikel.
10 students went on the trip, including Rachel Steiner, Kasia Baginski, Seth Harkness, Amanda Romagnolo, Alexis Hickox, Rebecca Kelly, Kristie Salemi, Sara Hecht, Casey Walsh, and Keandra Brown-Davis.
The 8 day long trip encompassed construction and audiology work. During the first two days, the group ran an audiology clinic in the town of Solola and worked on fitting hearing aids from pediatrics to geriatrics. The third day of the audiology clinic was held in Panajachel. Throughout the week, around 100 hearing evaluations were completed.
Rachel Steiner, a senior in the Communication Science and Disorders program, helped make ear molds for the hearing aids. “We had different stations for otoscopy, tympanometry, screenings, threshold testing and then we made our ear molds to attach to the hearing aids,” she explained. Malnutrition and hereditary factors impact hearing issues for a wide range people.
Earmolds were made by mixing a silicone-like material to make an impression of the ear. The impressions were then shaped and threaded with tubing so they could have custom ear molds. Traditionally, an ear impression is made and then sent to an ear mold manufacturer to be made, but the group made every ear mold on site. Once the ear molds are made, they are attached to a hearing aid that was programmed via computer for the individual’s hearing loss. In the three days, 34 hearing aids were fit.
“The people there were so friendly and warm,” said Kasia Baginski. “Regardless of the poverty stricken conditions, everyone there was happy or had a smile to them.”
Construction work filled the other two days of work, working on a home for a single mother, Sylveria and her eight children and grandchildren. The family shared two mattresses. “It was really great knowing that we were assisting in building a better house for her and her family that future generations would be able to use,” said Kasia. Work included digging a hole for a septic tank, bending metal, mixing and pouring concrete.
More information on Porch de Salomon can be found here.