On Tuesday August 16th (2011) I had the absolute pleasure of accompanying Fundacion Oir Es Vivir to a screening in a government-run orphanage.
Upon entering the orphanage (Divino Nino) I immediately noticed the brightly colored walls, playful stickers of Winnie the Pooh characters as basic decoration, and the structure of the building as fairly intact. I also noticed a significant presence of workmen around the building and seconds later my fears were confirmed: the orphanage was undergoing serious renovations, meaning that hearing testings could be somewhat problematic.
We were led into a small dimly-lit room whereby Cynthia and her team were able to set up their equipment, requiring little more than a wall-socket for the audiometer and a pair of latex gloves for hygiene.
Within minutes the first toddler was brought down, somewhat confused and wide-eyed, for a hearing test. The process was tricky: the orphan boy Moises didn't like the feeling of a small rubbery tip in his ear, and decided to continously shake his head or scratch his ear to get rid of it. Testing the first orphan took roughly 15 minutes, throughout which Cynthia's team entertained and distracted Moises in order to get a reading.
The screening tests the inner part of the ear (cochlea) by emitting a high-pitch frequency, vibrating the cochlea and returning the vibration to the fine-tuned microphone of the audiometer. The reading can result in three outcomes: Passed - meaning that the cochlea is responding and hearing appears to be fine, Unable to process / Noisy - meaning that there was too much noise within the room to obtain a reading, or that the child is sick, in which case a reading is difficult, or Referred - meaning that the child should be referred to further testing as there is a strong likelihood of partial or total deafnesss.
The professionalism of the entire team throughout the process of screening these orphans was incredible. Not only were they able to soothe some of the more terrified infants when needed, but they were also capable of performing their tasks efficiently and skillfully in order to get an accurate reading and collect the data.
My initial concerns about the noisy construction were totally irrational as we were able to politely ask the workers to stop during the screenings. Half way through the screening, however, another noisy intruder decided to interrupt us: tropical rain. This didn't phase Cynthia or her team and we were able to continue as planned!
These screenings occur on a regular basis (up to 4x a month), and are an integral part of what Fundacion Oir Es Vivir do. Furthermore, they also perform "screen-a-thons" extending their reach to over 130 individuals across as little as a mere 3 days! The dedication of Fundacion Oir Es Vivir to the cause of raising awareness about deafness was absolutely demonstrated through the hard work and energy from the team members.
Fundacion Oir Es Vivir is an organization which undoubtedly changes lives at a grassroots level, and with more funding across more donor-bases the organizational impact will increase exponentially, expanding programs and truly allowing others to understand the "invisible" disability.
Office Building of Oir Es Vivir