USU students help hearing impaired kids in Vietnam

Published: Sunday, Aug. 28 2011 10:44 p.m. MDT

Four Utah State University graduate students and two professors recently spent a month in Vietnam helping hearing impaired children.

Utah State University

LOGAN — Four Utah State University graduate students and two professors recently spent a month in Vietnam training teachers to work with hearing-impaired children.

They also took with them thousands of dollars worth of hearing aids and other equipment to help treat Vietnamese children who have hearing loss.

The USU group was invited on the trip by Seattle-based Global Foundation for Children With Hearing Loss. Thirteen other audiology and deaf education professionals from around the country joined them to share their knowledge and latest techniques.

"They don't have access to appropriate technology," said Lauri Nelson, an associate professor in Utah State's department of communicative disorders and deaf education. "There are no graduate training programs in Vietnam, so the teachers there don't get specific training in how to work with kids with hearing loss."

Ninety instructors from several dozen schools throughout Vietnam gathered in Ho Chi Minh City from June 23 to July 29 to learn the latest techniques from the U.S. hearing specialists.

Each day, the professionals worked with the Vietnamese instructors, lecturing and teaching the latest techniques in audiology training and deaf education.

"They were so gracious and so thankful that we could come," said Jeanette Smoot, a USU speech language pathology graduate. "They just told us over and over again how excited they were."

The group also met with several dozen families with hearing-impaired children. The children were fitted with new hearing aids.

"It's remarkable and really quite emotional and even humbling," Nelson said, "because the people are so grateful for the information and the technology."

When a child puts on a hearing aid and can hear their parents call their name, "it's very emotional," she said.

"The parents would break down — and the teachers and all of us," Nelson said. "It was a very touching experience.”

Kate Powell, who received her master’s degree in Utah State's listening and spoken language deaf education program this spring, said the experience allowed her to take what she's learned in the classroom and share that knowledge with others.

"The people we worked with over the course of the program were so happy and grateful to have the chance to learn what we had to teach," Powell said. "And it was a really wonderful way for me to put a cap on my own educational experience."

The group plans to return to Vietnam in February for a follow-up visit, as well as to assist in various schools and hospitals and distribute a few hundred additional hearing aids.

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