Tobile is outdoors surrounded by long grass, her arms thrown in the air, a radiant smile on her face

Improving hearing care in Zambia | June 2023.

As part of our partnership with CBM UK, we are hearing about their work to improve ear and hearing care in Zambia, and the difference it made for six-year-old Tobile and her Mum
As part of our partnership with CBM UK, we are hearing about their work to improve ear and hearing care in Zambia, and the difference it made for six-year-old Tobile and her Mum.

Tobile’s story

“I first realised that Tobile has serious hearing problems when she didn’t start talking like other children” explains her Mum, Clara. “Tobile went to school but she wasn’t able to interact. She was treated badly by the other children and also by the teachers.”

CBM’s partner, Beit CURE Hospital, diagnosed that Tobile was deaf in her left ear; with the right ear she could hear just a little bit.

When Tobile was fitted with a hearing aid, all of a sudden she looked very much surprised. The audiology technician asked her: “How old are you?” “Six”, she responded. Her Mum couldn’t believe it, and needed to control her tears. “Can you hear me?” she whispered. “Yes, I can hear everything, Mama!” Tobile smiled.

Before leaving, Tobile walked with her Mum through the backyard of the hospital. First, she was a bit shy beside her mother, then all of a sudden, she shouted: “I can hear the birds!” Tobile smiled and ran around with her arms outstretched. Clara just laughed – “That is pure happiness!”

Tobile sits on her mother’s lap, with a hearing aid visible in her ear. They are both smiling.

“Six-year-old Tobile was fitted with a hearing aid by CBM partners Beit CURE Hospital in Zambia.”

Improving ear and hearing care in Zambia

In Zambia, just one audiologist and five ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists serve a population of more than 19 million people.

The impact of hearing loss is serious and far-reaching. It is both a cause and consequence of poverty. It is an under-recognised consequence of major diseases – and sometimes their treatments. Adults with hearing loss often face unemployment, and communication barriers affect relationships as well as access to information and services. In children, it leads to poor language and cognitive development, and routinely results in a struggle to access education. Hardship and stigma are a reality for all ages and genders.

With our partner Beit Cure Hospital, CBM’s PrevENT project worked from 2017 to 2022 to improve ear and hearing care in three Central Province districts in Zambia. For more than one million people living in Central Province, this project marked the availability of formal, integrated community and specialist ear and hearing care services for the very first time.

During the course of the project:

  • 106 primary health facilities were provided with necessary ear care equipment and medical supplies
  • 13 audiology technicians and 127 nurses and clinical officers were trained in ear and hearing healthcare, including hearing loss identification, treatment of common ear diseases, referral pathways and health promotion
  • 237 community based volunteers were trained in healthcare promotion

Together, these healthcare workers delivered an incredible 120,000 consultations and services over the lifetime of the project. As long as services are maintained, this number stands to increase substantially in the coming years. This project has been a success not only for the individuals who were able to access treatment, but also in substantially strengthening local systems for years to come.

Find out more about CBM’s work transforming the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest places.

Image Copyright: CBM/Daniel Hayduk

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