First comprehensive audiology clinic in Southern Malawi is officially opened by Minister of Health, Dr Peter Kumpalume

6th May 2016 – Sound Seekers, a UK charity dedicated to helping deaf people in some of the poorest communities in Africa, announces the official opening of a comprehensive purpose-built and state of the art audiology clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, the first such clinic in Southern Malawi.

Sound Seekers has worked closely with the Government of Malawi and other partners to design, build, equip and staff the new clinic with funding from UK Aid Match Fund Scheme and the people of the island of Jersey. The clinic will provide hearing aids that will enable patients to hear and therefore be better able to participate in family life, with improved access to education and the workplace.  It is anticipated that the clinic will be able to treat approximately 35,000 people over the next ten years.

The Minister of Health in Malawi, Dr Peter Kumpalume, comments on the impact this new facility will have for local people suffering the effects of hearing loss: "I am delighted to preside over the opening of the magnificent Audiology Clinic at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. Suupported by Sound Seekers, this clinic provides the first comprehensive audiology service in Southern Malawi - incorporating ear and hearing health andoutreach clinics, it will also allow the training of Malawians to become the country’s first audiologists, while also training teachers to ensure inclusion of deaf children in education.  With all of these activities working in harmony, we will have created a holistic programme to support the deaf - something to be very proud of.”  

The opening of the new clinic marks a major milestone in Sound Seekers’ four-year project in Malawi,that began with the arrival of American volunteer audiologist, Dr Courtney Caron in 2014. Since then, Dr Courtney Caron has gone on to launch and develop the clinical audiology service at the hospital, working closely with Dr Andrew Gonani, Director of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Dr Wakisa Mulwafu, Head of the Ear Nose and Throat Department. She has also overseen the building of the new clinic, which began in March 2015.  The clinic is fitted with a comprehensive range of equipment for testing and measuring levels of hearing loss including audiometers, tympanometers, an otoacoustic emission machine, particularly useful for testing new-born babies, and two sound-proofed booths.

A building and equipment alone cannot provide a service to deaf people without skilled and trained medical staff to run the clinic. Emma Judge, CEO of Sound Seekers, explains: “Sound Seekers’ core principle is to support truly sustainable projects where local people are enabled to deliver medical services in their own country. To that end we are very pleased to be sponsoring four Malawian audiology officers who are currently studying for an MSc in Audiology at the University of Manchester in England. When they return to Blantyre in September this year, they will be the first fully qualified audiologists in the country and they will ensure that this clinic continues to thrive and serve the people of the local community well into the future.”

Deafness is a very isolating disability that can have a devastating impact on education and the potential for employment and economic independence. The Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital’s Dance and Drama group are putting on a special performance during the opening, bringing to life the effects of hearing loss and demonstrating how audiology can make a real difference to those affected by this disability. 

Many people affected by hearing loss in Southern Malawi live a very long way from the clinic in Blantyre, but Sound Seekers endeavours to ensure access to specialist audiology services even for those in remote communities. The charity has recently secured a new and improved HARK (Hearing Assessment and Research Vehicle) for the audiology clinic, funded by the people of the island of Jersey through JOAC (Jersey Overseas Aid Commission). This specialist 4x4 vehicle has an audio trailer fully equipped with soundproof booths. Using this vehicle, specialist teams can reach remote communities, and wherever possible, prevent hearing loss by treating infections and illnesses and helping those already deafened with the fitting of hearing aids.