The USVI Department of Health (DOH) has recognized hearing loss as an area of need in the community and proactively researched and secured, with the assistance of Dr. Wincess Gentius, Clinical Doctor of Audiology, support and resources to provide hearing testing and FREE hearing aids to individuals who are not able to afford such a necessary purchase. As such, the DOH partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and on Sunday, May 21, 2017, provided the gift of hearing to the residents on St. Croix. Out of the 200 participants that were present for the hearing screening, 150 were eligible and fitted with hearing aids- the youngest patient being five (5) years of age. The Gift-of-Hearing mission was held on the 1st level of the Sunshine Mall, and began at 8:00am and ended after 4:00 pm. All patients received ear screening, otoscopy and wax removal as needed, hearing testing, ear molds, hearing aid fittings, counseling and orientation on hearing aid use.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation consisted of a team of 15 people that flew to St. Croix from locations such as Guyana, Jamaica, Minnesota and Florida. Additionally, 25 local volunteers assisted with the facilitation of the day’s operation Gift-of-Hearing. Volunteers consisted of DOH staff, Barry University students and faculty and local physicians. “Many of the St. Croix residents have been waiting a longtime to access hearing health care due to the cost factor of obtaining hearing aids. The DOH and Starkey Foundation are very happy to provide the gift of hearing at no cost to the residents of St. Croix and soon the entire Virgin Islands,” expressed Dr. Gentius.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation is a Minnesota based organization whose mission is to provide a million hearing aids around the world by 2020. We identified patients who can take advantage of this program by receiving referrals, visiting the elderly at community health centers and nursing homes.
All eligible clients were provided with hearing aids, battery supply, maintenance and after care services-all at no charge to the patient. The Starkey Hearing Foundation provided the aftercare materials and supplies, tools, phones, computer, ear impression materials, replacement hearing aids -everything necessary to maintain the program going forward. This mission and collaboration gives the DOH the unique opportunity to capture data on hearing loss statistics regarding the type and conditions that contributed to hearing loss and prevalence/incidence. The DOH is doing everything we can to make use of all that the Starkey Hearing Foundation has to offer the residents in the territory.
There will be a monthly follow up/after care clinic at the DOH in which current patients will be contacted directly to make schedule their appointments. Individuals that need assistance with their hearing aids are encouraged to call 340-227-9011.
The program will be ongoing; the DOH looks forward to helping even more people in both districts. We anticipate having additional patient identification sessions in preparation for another hearing aid mission in the fall of 2017, which will encompass all three islands. If individuals are interested to be considered they can call 340-718-1311 ext 3789 and/or 3786.
Special thank you to: the Maternal Child Health Program (MCH), Barry University, Sunshine Mall, Various St. Croix Rotary Clubs, Mount Welcome Pharmacy, Lutheran Social Services of the VI, Teddy’s Rental, Reliable Rentals, Olympic Car Rental, Caravelle Hotel, the University of the Virgin Islands’ VIUCCED program, Dr. Hubert Watty from Pro-Med Clinics and Dr. Germain Owen’s Family practice, and big Kudos to DOH Staff, to include the Maintenance/Facilities Staff and the many volunteers who donated their time to this noteworthy event.