Hearing mission dominican republic

Case Study: Bringing Hearing Health to Poor and Underserved Haitians in the Dominican Republic

Case Study, Humanitarian

Brenda Tulio became interested in the field of rehabilitation after a close family friend was involved in a serious car accident while she was an undergraduate at university. His need to relearn basic communication skills led her to explore linguistics and rehabilitation along with her business studies. She ultimately went on to earn a Master of Clinical Science in Audiology at the University of Western Ontario in London and her Doctor of Audiology from A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. Brenda has been practicing Audiology for 19 years, and today she owns The Ear Clinic in Meaford, Ontario, Canada.

In the summer of 2016, Brenda and her son traveled to the Dominican Republic (D.R.) with the Haitian Humanitarian Assistance and Relief Team (HHART). HHART missions are supported, organized, and led by Rotary Clubs in Central Canada. Their primary mission is to help improve the quality of life of poor and disadvantaged people – primarily of Haitian heritage – living near Puerto Plata and Sosua, Dominican Republic. They promote education, develop public facilities, and provide much-needed medical, dental, and other health services and humanitarian assistance.

In the 1900s, Haitians were recruited to work in the sugar cane fields of the Dominican Republic. The owners of these companies held onto the papers of all their workers. When the companies went bankrupt before the end of the 20th century and the fields were abandoned, the workers were left with no documentation to prove citizenship. Unable to return to Haiti and with no rights to health care or education in the Dominican Republic, many find themselves unskilled and unable to find work while living in poor conditions and with poor health.

On their trip, Brenda and her son helped to feed children, tended to the sick and elderly, distributed clothing, bedding, and livestock to those most in need, taught new vocational skills, and helped with home repairs. And for the first time with HHART, Brenda worked with the medical team to provide much-needed hearing health services and hearing aids to those in need. Over the course of 4 days, Brenda performed 18 hearing tests for villagers who ranged in age from 2 to 68 years.

Brenda traveled to the D.R. with SHOEBOX, which is a portable audiometer. It conforms to ANSI standards, is FDA and Health Canada listed, and can be used to perform diagnostic threshold testing. SHOEBOX has also been clinically validated by peer-reviewed research to function as well as traditional audiometers outside of a sound booth. And because it runs on an iPad, the tablet can be charged and doesn’t require either a heavy battery or plug-in power to perform tests.

Another advantage of a clinical audiometer is its game-play interface. The system operates by having the individual click an object on the screen and then drag it in one of two directions based on whether or not they hear a tone presented at different frequencies. The ‘gameplay’ approach helped Brenda overcome any language barriers that may have interrupted her testing.

In the end, Brenda 5 people with significant hearing loss who she was also able to fit with donated hearing aids. These are people who otherwise would not have had access to hearing health care or the means to purchase hearing instruments. She has changed the course of several people’s lives.

“Having access to such a portable, lightweight system allowed me to travel with ease, to test people in the field, and did not require that I have access to a sound attenuating booth. Thank you, SHOEBOX Audiometry and Clearwater Clinical,” Brenda Tullio, Doctor of Audiology and owner of The Ear Clinic.