by Arthia Nixon
When her peers in Grenada teased her for “speaking funny” as a child, Cecilia Yvonne James brushed them off by saying it was because she was born in Aruba and that was it was an accent.When her peers in Grenada teased her for “speaking funny” as a child, Cecilia Yvonne James brushed them off by saying it was because she was born in Aruba and that was it was an accent.
The truth was, she could not hear herself speaking to them and her parents did not seek early intervention for her as if she had a speech impediment. It would be 18 years later before an audiologist in New York confirmed that she was deaf in one ear, hard of hearing in the other and there was little that could be done to correct her speech.
Now the mother of two successful entrepreneurs and a businesswoman in her own right, James has partnered with Starkey Hearing Foundation and is returning to her home country to give the gift of hearing and to encourage families to intervene earlier so that those with hearing loss would not go through the challenges she went through after late intervention. She will be arriving in Grenada on 9 October 2019 with her son Shamar and a team of hearing health professionals from the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation will introduce a major community-based Wide Frequency Audibility (WFA) Hearing Health Care Programme that will eventually soon be rolled out through Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Developed by the US-based Starkey Hearing Foundation, the programme intends to provide sustainable hearing health care, to the deaf and hard of hearing by exposing and training nurses and teachers leaving them equipped with the necessary skills and resources to become hearing healthcare coordinators and assist those in their community who have hearing loss.
On 11 October, Starkey Hearing Foundation will provide hearing health services to approximately 300-400 individuals. These services range from ear examination, hearing aid fitting, counselling, and data collection. Aftercare information will be provided to hearing aid recipients on where to go and who to contact for follow-up services of the local team for their ongoing monthly free of cost aftercare services that they provide to all patients.
Patients fitted with hearing devices will be provided with batteries and accessories for continued use and will be monitored monthly to ensure proper use and upkeep of the device. A small group of Starkey Hearing Foundation members will return to Grenada after one week to conduct follow-up care.
“Since 1984, Starkey Hearing Foundation has been tirelessly working to bring the gift of hearing to people around the world,” said a spokesperson for the organisation. “Starkey Hearing Foundation’s global impact on hearing loss is unmatched. We’ve improved the lives of people around the world and have provided hearing aids in more than 100 countries. From providing hearing aids to low-income patients in the United States to organising and funding hundreds of missions in countries across the globe, we are committed to helping the world hear.”
As the founder and president of I Hear You, Inc. James said that she wants to ensure she wants to start in Grenada as a way of giving back where she grew up but expand to the rest of the Caribbean region within the next few years. She says the goal is to give the gift of hearing to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and to provide hearing tests and free hearing aids.
“I believe that when we do this, there will be people who will be able to hear,” said James. “There will be people who can hear their children and there are students who will be able to hear in a classroom setting and perform well like their hearing peers. I want to break the stigma that is associated with people who are differently-abled and show them that there are advancements in medicine and technology.”
James said that as this is the first mission, there are still some things she is trying to secure in order to make sure the team of volunteers are equipped to do their jobs and the patients are comfortable during their evaluations.
“We are very grateful so far to have the support of various sponsors for their assistance so far, and we are also collaborating with the Ministry of Health and Education,” said James. “Still, we need basics like food and snacks for the Starkey Hearing Foundation team and local volunteers plus water for patients who come. So, we are asking individuals to reach out to connect with us to ensure those needs are met.”
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