Media - Sonova News Room
“Our dream would never have come true without this help”
Finally hearing: the dream came true for three disadvantaged children in Panama as their cochlear implants were successfully activated in February 2017 . They were the first to be fitted with implants in Hear the World Foundation’s more than ten years of existence – not least thanks to volunteer work undertaken by Sonova staff.
Initially, you only see the meter flicker slightly on the computer screen. Then little Jozmar starts – it’s the first sound. The first sound he has heard in his life. He looks over to his mother, astonished, and then begins to beam. Tears are running down his mother’s face. “Words fail me,” says Yaritza Agrazal as she cuddles her son tightly, hardly knowing what to say. “I’m so excited and so happy – this means the world to me.”
February 2017: the moment of truth has come in the offices of Fundación Pro Integración (Funproi for short), a charitable organisation in Panama City. The documentary film shows the transmitter coil with its speech processor on Jozmar’s head, behind his ear; the device is linked to the cochlear implant beneath his scalp.
The four-year-old had the implant fitted in an operation six weeks previously, and Sonova staff members Carina Rodríguez, a Clinical Manager at Advanced Bionics, and her colleague Sigrid Broda have met up today to activate the cochlear implants with Jozmar, his mother and two other families: the electrode that was inserted into the cochlea can now relay electrical signals to the auditory nerve. This, in turn, will send impulses to the brain, which can interpret these as sounds. It is a day that will change everything for three-year-old Ivana and four-year-old Alejandro as well. The children will be able to hear for the first time in their lives, opening a door onto a new world for them. They will be able to learn to speak, go to school, and look forward to an independent life.
For Jozmar – as well as for Alejandro and Ivana – being able to hear will be like a miracle. The three children come from the slums of Panama. Although the healthcare sector in this Central American country provides support for audiological examinations, it will finance hearing aids and cochlear implants in only the smallest minority of cases and so, for many, the non-profit Funproi organisation is their only hope. It is one of the few institutions in the country that has staff qualified in pediatric audiology and thus can specialise in providing support for young people with hearing loss.
This contribution will allow us to make hearing a possibility for children who were beyond the help of even the most powerful hearing aids; it will help them to look to the future with greater confidence.
Sarah Kreienbühl, Group Vice President Corporate HRM and Corporate Communications at Sonova and member of the Hear the World Foundation board
Donating cochlear implant systems is a milestone for Sonova’s Hear the World Foundation: “This contribution will allow us to make hearing a possibility for children who were beyond the help of even the most powerful hearing aids; it will help them to look to the future with greater confidence,” suggests Sarah Kreienbühl, Sonova’s Group Vice President Corporate HRM and Corporate Communications, and a member of the Hear the World Foundation board.
The Hear the World Foundation has been supplying Funproi with funding, hearing aids and audiological expertise since 2013, and the involvement of Sonova staff has played a decisive role in support activities, too; Sonova employees offer their time on a voluntary basis in association with a network of hospitals, surgeons and local aid organisations.
The Hear the World Foundation donates the money not only for the cochlear implants but also for all the requisite accessories, such as cables and spare parts, and offers a guarantee of 15 years, rather than the usual five. In addition, the Foundation undertakes to supply indefinite aftercare. Experts from Sonova’s Advanced Bionics brand play a crucial role in Panama as well, keeping a local eye on the project, performing the cochlear implant activations and sharing their skills with the Funproi audiologists, who will then be able to look after the children themselves in the future.
In addition to regular check-ups, they receive speech therapy three times a week with a view to jumpstarting their language skills over a period of two to three years and getting them ready for school. The Hear the World Foundation is thus not only making it possible for the children to hear, it is guaranteeing them ongoing and comprehensive audiological care to international standards. The parents are also trained in how to handle cochlear implants and are given tips on how they can support their children with language training games at home.
Continuing the aid project
Little Alejandro, one of the three children whose cochlear implants have just been activated, lives in a simple stone house among palm trees and banana plants: he is playing in the garden, and turns round when his mother calls him. Fatima Quiroz Gómez is still bowled over by the fact that her child can hear her. “Our dream would never have come true without the help of the Hear the World Foundation. It is such a privilege for us to have received this gift – there are so many children who would have needed it just as much. I hope their wish comes true as well!”
The Hear the World Foundation is working on fulfilling these dreams: “Donating the first cochlear implants is an important step for our foundation. We aspire to support many more projects like this all over the world in future, and hope to be able to help numerous children enjoy a better life,” adds Sarah Kreienbühl.
And the first steps towards this future have already been taken: a pilot project will see five further children selected in 2017, and they too can look forward to a cochlear implant. Four more are scheduled for the year after, and the Hear the World Foundation is already planning to provide support for more disadvantaged children in other countries. As soon as Sonova can find reliable on-site project partners, there will be more children round the world who can hear again thanks to cochlear implants.