AUM Speech & Hearing Clinic to provide tests to Guatemalan kids

Sydney Adams, an audiology doctoral student at Auburn University, poses with a patient on a recent trip to Guatemala.
Sydney Adams, an audiology doctoral student at Auburn University, poses with a patient on a recent trip to Guatemala.

Children in Guatemala will soon be on the road to better hearing thanks to Auburn University at Montgomery. Taking international outreach to a new level, the AUM School of Liberal Arts has helped purchase equipment that will allow students in the university's Speech and Hearing Clinic to provide audiological testing remotely to impoverished children in Guatemala City.

For the past three years, Auburn University audiology doctoral students have traveled to Guatemala – led by AU audiologist Sandra Clark-Lewis at the invitation of the Municipality of Guatemala City – to provide hearing screenings, follow-up testing and hearing aids to children who otherwise have no access to these services.

More than 1,500 children have received hearing screenings and, if needed, a follow-up audiological evaluation. Those identified with educationally significant hearing loss are fitted with hearing aids donated by the GN ReSound Corporation.

"Dr. Clark-Lewis is happy to have established a partnership with the Municipality of Guatemala City but admits one of the weaknesses of this program is that follow-up hearing testing is only completed once a year when she travels with her students to Guatemala," said Christi Lynch Bell, interim director of the AUM Speech and Hearing Clinic. "With the assistance provided by Dean Michael Burger of AUM's College of Liberal Arts, children in Guatemala can now be tested within days of failing a hearing screening."

Here's how the program will work: Instead of traveling to Guatemala to complete testing, it will be completed remotely at the AUM or AU Speech and Hearing Clinic using new audiometric test equipment. When a child in Guatemala fails a basic hearing screening and needs an audiological evaluation, AUM and AU audiologists and audiology doctoral students will conduct the exam using a web service that allows them to control the audiometer in Guatemala, as well as speak with and see the child.

"Children needing a hearing test will no longer wait months for audiology students and faculty to return to Guatemala," said Bell. "In the future, they can use their limited time in Guatemala to deliver more hearing aids and train personnel."