This past August, Dr. Patricia Reiff traveled to Alaska to provide the gift of hearing. Travelling across the world to countries in need has been incredible, but this time, Dr. Reiff wanted to give back in a place that we might overlook. Providing hearing healthcare is essential for connection and survival in a place where sunlight is scarce in the winter.
We asked Dr. Reiff about her experience the effects this trip had on her and the people she served.
Why were you in Alaska?
I was there for a conference and a mission trip to the more remote part of Alaska where limited or no hearing care services are available.
How did you end up providing care to the community?
It was arranged by a hearing aid manufacturer to provide hearing care services to native Alaskans. I wanted to volunteer to help the citizens of our country since my last two mission trips have been abroad.
What type of problems are people facing in Alaska?
A lot of people there have hearing loss due to noise exposure from hunting, target shooting, and oil rig work. Because the areas where these people live is so remote, getting hearing healthcare is next to impossible. Sometimes flying a plane is the only means to get to a neighboring town. If you are in an underprivileged area, hearing care is far from an option.
How does hearing loss affect these people emotionally, and how does it impact their community?
It makes you feel more isolated and depressed. Alaska can feel very lonely, and when you are around people, you value the connections. In the winter months, the sun is barely visible for eight hours a day. It can become overwhelming. For survival, being able to hear animals approaching and being able to hear animals for hunting is necessary to survive in the region.
What kind of work was done? How did it make you feel to provide this care?
We provided many aspects of hearing care, intake case history, hearing testing, wax removal, ENT referrals, hearing aid programming, assessments, and fittings. We were able to provide full hearing healthcare services and also began to train people on how to take care of themselves in between visits.
What type of impact made? What will they be able to experience now?
A big impact was made to improve their quality of life. Now they are able to work, socialize, enjoy music, enjoy television and be better providers for their families that depend so much on them.
What was your favorite moment of the trip?
My favorite moment was with a 90 year old man who felt he could finally hear his children again. He was a musician and played over eight instruments. Now he could hear what he was playing with better definition. His eyes began to water, which only made me run up to him and give him a hug.
Trips like these are possible because of generous people like you. When you donate your old hearing aids or provide a monetary donation, you are helping people everywhere receive the hearing healthcare they need to live a fulfilling life.
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