By Esther Namirimu
Doctors and National Football League (NFL) of USA in partnership with Starkey Hearing Foundation (SHF) is treating people with hearing problems free of charge.
About 1,000 people from the districts of Buikwe, Kampala, Manafwa, Budadili, Mbale turned up for the first treatment camp at Serena Hotel gardens in Kampala recently.
Most of them had cases of limited hearing, so they were given hearing aids.
While some who turned up were born deaf, others said they were slapped in the past and for a few it was just old age at work.
But still, there were those who just did not know the cause of their hearing defect, most probably due to dirty ears as Brady Forseth, the executive director of Starkey, argues.
He made it clear that most people who say they are deaf are not really deaf.
He said: “95% of deaf people in Uganda are not really deaf. Some [just] have dirty ears that need cleaning and others have limited hearing.”
“So we are giving them the gift of hearing through the use of hearing aids.”
The organization has commitment to action as part of the Clinton Global Initiative.
In July 2012, Starkey hosted Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton in Uganda to promote the mission’s programs.
A nun, who appeared to be in her 70s, came to be treated because she could not hear at all. So when the doctors checked her, they discovered she just had ‘dirty’ ears and it took the intervention of the doctors to have her hearing restored.
After about 15 minutes, she walked off without any hearing devices – fully recovered.
The medical team came along with modern equipment and medicines to serve the purpose.
Forseth said they treat over 100,000 people from all over the world annually.
The medical team flies to Gulu today [Wednesday] where they expect to treat more than 300 people with hearing problems. After there, they will head to Kasese and later to neighboring Rwanda on a similar mission.
Most of the recipients of the treatment were identified several months ago. Each hearing aid device is molded to the user's ear.
SHF's international director, Frederic Rondeau, spent a week in Uganda taking silicone impressions of patients' ears and training Ugandan nurses, speech therapists and others to do the same.
The impressions were sent to the Starkey headquarters in Minneapolis, USA where permanent molds were made and carried back here for this mission.
He says half of the molds are held up by Uganda Revenue Authority due to high taxes. The organization now has to pay sh5m tax clearance fee to get the remaining batch.
There were some of patients who had not been measured for hearing aids but still showed up at the camp at Serena.
But since William Austin, the founder of SHF, is good at improvising, they had brought extra devices that can be modified to fit anyone.
Alice Nabbanja, program coordinator Sense International – a partner NGO with SHF – said each patient with limited hearing received free treatment.
She said hearing aids cost not less than sh400, 000 a pair on the Ugandan market.