AN audiologist from Basildon University Hospital used two weeks of his holiday to share his expert knowledge at a clinic for deaf children in the Far East. Adam Chell, Chief Paediatric Audiologist, responded to an appeal from the charity All Ears Cambodia for volunteers to teach fellow clinicians about screening infants for hearing difficulties.
Adam, 27, who joined Basildon Hospital in April 2013, funded the trip with the support of family and friends, and the Oticon Hearing Foundation, an organisation that assists hearing projects for communities in need.
Medical staff in Cambodia face many difficulties as a result of 30 years of civil war and the murderous regime of dictator Pol Pot and his followers in the Khmer Rouge. An estimated two million people were executed or starved, with the educated particularly targeted. Health services were destroyed, 90 per cent of doctors were killed or left the country, and books were burned. This left the country with a shortage of skills and knowledge.
Adam said: “I thought I would be assisting in a clinic, but they wanted me to teach senior clinicians. I had never been to Asia or given any lectures before, so it was well beyond my comfort zone but the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
“There is no screening programme for infants in Cambodia, so I was teaching audiologists how to identify children with hearing difficulties, and to recognise risk factors from medical history, such as meningitis or other health conditions.”
British audiologist Glyn Vaughan, founded the All Ears Cambodia charity, after leaving London to carry out international voluntary work. He has since written an audiology text book in the Cambodian language, Khmer, as well as setting up a series of projects to help deaf people in the country, including clinics and hearing aid repair workshops.
Adam added: “The clinic I was teaching at is the only one that is free of charge to the poor, and often people only bring their children when they are already seriously deaf. The duties their audiologists perform are above and beyond what we have to do here. They have to be expert craftsmen casting and grinding ear moulds for hearing aids, as well as having advanced knowledge of primary ear care to manage and treat ear infections.
“I was very inspired by the trip and definitely want to do more. My ambition is to get their most senior clinician to come to the audiology department at Basildon Hospital to learn, so they can go back and teach more colleagues.
“People in Cambodia are so friendly; I built such great relationships with colleagues in that short space of time and I would love to do more over there.”
In some villages in Cambodia, ear disease in children is so common it is considered normal. Only one per cent of people who need a hearing aid have one. The cost of a modern digital hearing aid is more than a Cambodian peasant would pay for his house.