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VIslander Audiology student gives back to community

Gennell Bowen fitting a student with a hearing aid
-year-old Heidi Mac Dowall embraces Audiology student Lisa Duong, after she heard sounds for the first time in 6 years.
-year-old Heidi Mac Dowall embraces Audiology student Lisa Duong, after she heard sounds for the first time in 6 years.
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Ms. Gennell Bowen, a BVIslander currently in her fourth year at the Nova Southeastern University, collaborated with the University, and the BVI Health Services Authority to fit hearing aids to fourteen children in the Virgin Islands.

On her last year of externship with the Nova Southeastern University studying Audiology, which is the study of hearing and balance and its related disorders, Ms. Bowen brought a team of Audiologists, Doctoral Students and Alumni to the Virgin Islands to fit hearing aids, a press release from the BVI Health Services Authority stated. “We all came with one purpose of fitting hearing aids on children who need it, and this has never, ever been done in the British Virgin Islands before, so it makes me proud to be a BVIslander and to be able to contribute to my country.” Ms. Bowen said.

The press release further stated that a miracle was witnessed when 9-year-old Heidi Mac Dowall, who hadn’t had the ability to hear since she was three years old, was fitted with her very own hearing aid and heard sounds for the first time in 6 years. Bowen said, “Once she was able to hear, Heidi smiled, she lit up! She and her mom were so pleased; we were just happy to do that for her.” Her mother, Ms. Roxanne Ollivierre, said, “Heidi wasn’t always deaf but when she started preschool, she got sick with a very high fever, and she was rushed to the hospital. Afterwards, I was told that Heidi could not hear or talk anymore. It was really, really, really devastating for me, because she was such a bright little girl.”

Ms. Ollivierre described Audiometric Technician, Mrs. Livia Hodge as an angel, who assisted Heidi and got her involved in the programme. When asked about how she was feeling now that her daughter could hear, Ms. Ollivierre, with tears in her eyes, said, “It’s indescribable; I am very happy to see that she can really hear, and looking forward to hearing her talk one day.”

As one of the Audiologists who visited, Dr. Dianne Cooper said that she had the pleasure of coming and being able to meet Heidi and her mother, and being able to assist with fitting her with these hearing aids, while experiencing the joy that her mother also experienced. “We are now teaching her how to use them, take care of them, show the teacher how to use them, and move forward with better education, because she can hear.” Dr. Cooper explained.

Mrs. Livia Hodge, who is a Registered Nurse with certification in Audiology said that this is the first time a mass number of children, 149 in March, have been tested, conducting advanced diagnostic hearing testing. After we fit the children with hearing aids, the work begins with Education in Speech and Language. Now we really have to plan for the future of their educational advancement.”

Dr. Teri Hamill, leader of the mission, sponsored by Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale Florida, said, “We are here on invitation of Gennell Bowen and Nurse Livia Hodge. Gennell spoke to us about the need for extra testing and hearing care for the kids of the BVI, so we arranged donations from ReSound Corporations Worldwide Headquarters in Denmark, and they have given us close to $100,000.00 in technology.”

Dr. Hamill expressed gratitude to Jenny Nesgaard AUD, a Nova Alumni who works at ReSound Corporations in Denmark, who was very instrumental in assisting with the donations. “Today, (Monday, 31st October) we are fitting the children who need them with these state of the art hearing aid technologies. They include hearing aids that go behind the ear, and custom pieces that go in the ear, also donated by ReSound’s United States office. We also have just newly released teacher microphones which will pick up the teacher’s voice and beam it up to the child’s hearing aid so that in school, they are not handicapped by all of the background noise and bustle, so we are very, very happy to be here and to be able to participate in the miracle of giving kids better hearing.” Dr. Hamill said.

Another doctor who was instrumental in the first visit was Dr. Meredith Buemi of Ress Institute. During the visit in March 2011, the team did hearing testing using different technologies. Some children were administered with the standard hearing test, which entails raising the hand or pushing a button when the child heard the tone. For other children who had other handicaps or were too young, electrophysiological testing was conducted, where measuring electrodes were placed on the head to pick up the brain waves, as the child listened to sounds.

According to Dr. Hamill, a regular hearing test costs from $125.00 to $250.00; electrophysiological testing ranges from $250.00 to $300.00; and fitting the hearing aid with the latest technology that is being used in this programme, would cost about $5,000.00 per child. As there is not an Audiologist on island, ReSound has also donated backup hearing aids, which would normally be an added expense.

Three doctors, Dr. Teri Hamill of Nova Southeastern University; Dr. Dianne Cooper, and Dr. Alyssa Ricevuto, both of South Florida ENT, along with five students, Lisa Duong, Tanya Stathopoulos, Shelby Campbell, Kathrine Aguirre, and BVI’s Gennell Bowen donated their labour, and paid their own way to visit the Virgin Islands and participate in the programme. The Health Services Authority provided additional support, and housing for the participants.

Donations for the equipment and supplies were provided by ReSound Corporations Worldwide Office in Denmark, ReSound U.S.A., Oaktree Laboratories, and Tele-Acoustics in Florida.

The Audiology Unit of the BVI Health Services Authority provides hearing testing and identifies children who have hearing and speech problems. The Unit is attached to the Community Health Clinic and works in conjunction with the Social Development Department, Student Services and the Special Needs Educator.

1 Response to “VIslander Audiology student gives back to community ”

  • Harlan (02/11/2011, 19:19) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Well done Gennell this is what we need more off in the British Virgin Islands, positive initiative by our people. It is so disappointing to see that no comments were made on such a positive move for the country. If it were something of a political nature or negative nature, I am sure their would of been several blogs written by now. Very disappointing, this is a very telling sign about the overall current state of our beloved country...

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