Sound Seekers partnership with Specsavers delivers hearing aid to Africa

27 May 2015 - Sound Seekers, a national charity dedicated to helping deaf people in the world's poorest communities, celebrated National Deaf Awareness Week by announcing the first milestone in its joint campaign with Specsavers Hearing Centres. Since the launch of the initiative, 500 hearing aids have been collected for redistribution in Africa.

Specsavers collect old and unwanted hearing-aids, which are delivered to Sound Seekers for cleaning, refurbishment and redistribution to deaf people in Africa.  

Lucy Carter, CEO of Sound Seekers says this pipeline will deliver a vital flow of hearing aids to six African countries: "We are very grateful to Specsavers for these ongoing donations. It's a simple concept with the reward of being part of a network delivering life-changing opportunities to people who might be isolated, uneducated, and unable to make a living.  Together, we are helping children back to school and adults back to jobs."

The refurbishment process takes place at Sound Seekers' hub in Zambia, which is masterminded by the country's only audiologist, Dr Alfred Mwamba. Since partnering with Dr Mwamba, the charity has established a fully-equipped audiology unit where qualified professionals provide desperately services to a population of 14 million people.

Once cleaned, repaired and upgraded, the team sends the hearing-aids from Specsavers to Sound Seekers' projects in Cameroon, The Gambia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia. In most cases, these projects provide the only access to trained audiology healthcare and equipment, such as hearing-aids, in their countries.

"At Sound Seekers, we have a particularly strong focus on helping children," continues Lucy. "Hearing loss is an invisible disability that prevents thousands of children in the developing world from receiving an education. Obviously, if we can help them early enough, we can transform their own life prospects and hopefully also influence the future landscape of hearing loss care and prevention in Africa."

Hearing loss is more common in Africa because there are more causes (e.g. poor care for pregnant women, wrong drug doses, and untreated ear infections where the parents don't have money to pay for antibiotics) - and so little help to treat and manage it.

The hearing-aid collection campaign is just one part of what the Sound Seekers team does, also helped along by the new collection boxes for any loose change at Specsavers. Sound Seekers projects include a pioneering tele-audiology project, prevention training, helping children with hearing loss stay in school, sponsorship of a number of medical specialists in audiology training, and a programme of audiology care outreach to more remote places using Sound Seekers bespoke HARK (Hearing Assessment and Research Clinic) vehicles.

Colin Campbell, director of professional services at Specsavers hearing centres, says: "In the UK we are very lucky to have such proficient healthcare support and facilities, and this is something we often take for granted.

"Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many African countries, and that's why Specsavers is committed to helping Sound Seekers provide care and support to those suffering from hearing loss.

"Our hearing centres across the country are continuing to collect unused or unwanted hearing aids so I would urge anyone with spare equipment to drop it into their nearest hearing centre. On behalf of Specsavers, I'd also like to thank those who have already donated to this amazing cause. It's through these donations that we can really make a difference to those less fortunate than ourselves."

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