From October 1-5, 2018, the Bayat Foundation proudly hosted the annual Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission on the grounds of the Bayat Media Center in Kabul. Now in its fifth consecutive year, the Hearing Care Mission is one of the most important initiatives in Afghanistan that supports people affected by deafness or hearing impairments. Read on to learn more about this annual event that provides hope and healing to thousands of Afghans.
What is the Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission?
Established in 2014 by the Bayat Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the Hearing Care Mission works to bring the gift of hearing to the many thousands of Afghans who are living with deafness or hearing impairments. Held for several days each year, the Hearing Care Mission provides attendees with free hearing screenings, hearing aids, and other treatments and services. Bayat Foundation founder Dr. Ehsan Bayat estimates that since it was first launched, the Hearing Care Mission has served more than 7,000 people.
Why is the Hearing Care Mission important?
Deafness and other hearing impairments are a serious problem in Afghanistan. Estimates from the Afghanistan National Association of the Deaf suggest that approximately 34,000 children between the ages of seven and 18 are affected by deafness, blindness, or both. Unfortunately, deafness faces considerable stigma in Afghan society: people don’t always recognize it as a physical impairment, instead often believing that it is a reflection of a developmental disability or other cognitive impairment.
In addition, in a country where even basic health care can be difficult to come by, it is challenging for Afghans living with deafness to access treatment and services, let alone educational options that can accommodate their unique needs. For many Afghans affected by deafness, the Hearing Care Mission is therefore a rare opportunity to have their hearing needs attended to by medical experts, and to interact with people who understand and are experienced at communicating with people who are deaf.
What happened at this year’s Hearing Care Mission?
In 2018, the Hearing Care Mission opened with the October 1st Dedication Ceremony, which was attended by a number of senior Afghan government officials, NGO representatives, civic leaders, and other stakeholders. In his opening address, Dr. Bayat thanked the audience for their support and commitment to helping give the gift of hearing to thousands of Afghans.
During the five days of the Hearing Care Mission, a rigorous patient assessment and treatment process helped to deliver the best possible care to attendees. The process was overseen by several Bayat-Starkey Hearing Care Teams comprised of international audiologists and hearing care specialists, as well as trained and dedicated volunteers from the Bayat Foundation. Patients first underwent an intake process in which their vital signs were recorded and they received a thorough examination and cleaning of their ears and auditory system. Next, patients were given a set of fitted ear molds, made from clear and wear-resistant plastic, to house their new hearing devices.
After the intake process, patients were escorted by volunteers into the treatment area. Here, the Bayat-Starkey Hearing Care Teams fit each patient with personalized hearing aids. Provided completely free of charge, these devices allowed many of the patients to connect with the world through sound for the first time in their lives. At this year’s Hearing Care Mission, more than 1,240 people received care and treatment.
Who is the Bayat Foundation’s partner on the Hearing Care Mission?
The Bayat-Starkey Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission is a joint venture from the Bayat Foundation and its partner, the Starkey Hearing Foundation. As the philanthropic arm of Starkey Hearing Technologies, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of hearing aids, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has been working to give the gift of hearing to those in need for more than 30 years. The Foundation has worked than 100 countries around the world, collaborating with governments, non-profit organizations, and health leaders to help increase access to hearing healthcare services. The Foundation estimates that through its various initiatives, which include programs like the Afghanistan Hearing Care Mission, it has helped provide more than 1 million people with much-needed hearing support.
How does the Hearing Care Mission fulfill the Bayat Foundation’s objectives?
In addition to education, water projects, and family support, healthcare is one of the central pillars of the Bayat Foundation’s mission and activities. Recognizing that many Afghans, particularly in rural and remote communities, have difficulty accessing essential healthcare services, the Bayat Foundation works to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare throughout the country. Some of the health-related initiatives that the Bayat Foundation has led in the past include: the construction of a brand-new maternity, neo-natal, and surgical hospital in Kabul; the operation of a vision care clinic that provided free glasses and other treatment to Afghans with visual impairments; and various donations to institutions like Kabul Medical University.