Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with a population of over 6 million people. According to the Carlyle Hearing Center, it is estimated that 10% of the Nicaraguan population has a severe to profound hearing loss, pointing to a count of 600,000 people.
Sherry Rauh is a former medical journalist. After becoming intrigued by implantable hearing technology, she went back to school and to earn her AuD from Nova Southeastern University in 2015. She is now a clinical audiologist with South Florida ENT Associates and the co-founder of Hear for Good, Inc., a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping adults and children with hearing loss in South Florida and Nicaragua.
Hearing Aids for Nicaraguan Students (HANS)
In 2014, Dr. Rauh organized a joint project between Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Student Academy of Audiology and the Los Pipitos Institute in Managua, Nicaragua to provide hearing aids to children.
“I had been to Nicaragua the previous year and saw how they were identifying many children with hearing loss at a young age, but had limited resources for intervention.”
In 2015, the HANS Project received a grant from the Hear the World Foundation providing BTE hearing aids for the next 5 years. Dr. Rauh now travels to Nicaragua every year with a small group of audiology students from NSU, to fit new hearing aid devices and provide followup to previous patients, while Los Pipitos provides check-ups and speech therapy.
“It’s really important to me that whichever children we do fit with hearing aids we are able to provide them with sufficient follow-up care.”
Providing Bone Conduction Hearing Devices in Nicaragua
As Dr. Rauh’s organization has grown, her partners in Nicaragua began asking what could be done for children with microtia and atresia, who cannot use conventional hearing aids for their hearing loss. She reached out to Oticon Medical and her local representative, Brittany Whitlock, who provided two demo units which were fit with soft-bands. Oticon Medical then made an official donation of four Ponto 3 Power units for her trip her most recent trip this October.
“While we have the BTE hearing aids, there are children who can’t use those and to be able to extend assistance to those children meant a lot to our team, the team in Nicaragua, and the families.”
With the continued work of the Hear for Good foundation and Los Pipitos, children in Nicaragua with different hearing needs are not only being fit with hearing devices, but receiving the proper follow-up, and care throughout their lives. When asked why this work is important to her, Dr. Rauh said, “There are so many countries where there is very little, to no access to audiologists, so part of me feels like we have a responsibility to provide that assistance. But I also get a lot of personal joy making these trips and seeing the difference we are making.”