Doctoral Student puts Audiology Studies to use in Third World Countries

BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania student Bethany Noll (Robesonia, Pa), a hearing patient herself, will soon become a clinical audiologist.

However, the third-year doctoral student has already put her knowledge and training to good use in helping Third World countries through the assistance of Entheos Audiology Cooperative — an audiological cooperative that promotes best practices and giving as a part of modern hearing healthcare delivery.

Noll, a student in the Clinical Doctorate of Audiology program, began her charitable passion two years ago in Haiti. She has since made several other overseas trips to Guatemala and Zambia.

“I became involved with Entheos through my boss at A&E Audiology,” Noll said. “I began working for her in 2012, and I have been a patient for her since I was 12. She became a member of Entheos and invited me to go with her in 2015 to Haiti. Since that first trip, I have been hooked.”

According to Noll, there is an established deaf community in Leveque where there is a children’s school and a home for deaf children. Noll’s life was immediately flipped upside down when meeting her patients.

“This trip is what captured my heart,” Noll said. “I got to see some of the most impoverished areas in Haiti. I got to fit a middle-aged lady with bilateral hearing aids. When we asked her the etiology of her hearing loss, she told us she believes she lost her hearing during the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.”

In Haiti is where Noll also fit her first child with a hearing aid.

“Zacary who was such a shy boy,” Noll said. “He had a profound hearing loss. We fit him with bilateral hearing aids and when we fit him, a smile lit up his face. After we went over all the necessary care with him, he rushed over to his friends to show off his new hearing aids.”

A year later Noll said she visited Panajachel, Guatemala. There she met a 16-year-old girl, Esmerelda, who was very nervous about receiving her hearing aids.  She was worried that her peers would make fun of her for them, Noll said. 

“We gave her the option of black hearing aids or light pink hearing aids,” Noll said. “She was very nervous, so I stepped in and showed her the hearing aids I was wearing, which were hot pink. She became less nervous knowing I was (a young person) and I wore the same hearing aids. Ultimately, she decided on the pink hearing aids.”

Noll returned to Panajachel in January hoping to see Esmerelda again. The first three clinic days passed, but there was no sign of her.  On the last day, the group traveled across Lake Atitlan to another school where many people were eagerly waiting for their arrival, including Esmerelda.

“She indicated the hearing aids helped her tremendously, but her ear molds were deteriorating,” Noll said. “She told us how she was planning to go to school to become a teacher the following year. We wanted to fit her with new hearing aids that are a receiver in the ear style, so it does not require an ear mold. However, our stock was limited and we did not have hearing aids that were suitable for her hearing loss.”

At that moment, according to Noll, she and her boss decided to take Noll’s hearing aids off her very ears to reprogram for Esmerelda.

“That is exactly what we did,” Noll said. “My hearing aids at that time were considered one of the top of the line hearing aids in the United States, and we gave them to Esmerelda.”

Noll continued her Entheos journey a few months later in June to Zambia. There she fitted hearing aids for a 4-year-old girl, Sylvia, whose family was having trouble paying for her schooling. Noll made it her mission to help find a solution, traveled to the school and met the founder. He agreed to sponsor Sylvia to go to his school and receive the proper education she needed to be successful, Noll said.

Soon, according to Noll, it’s back to Guatemala.

“I hope to see Esmerelda again,” Noll said. “I’m so excited to see how she is doing. I’m also excited to just continue to give back the gift of hearing I have been given here in Pennsylvania since I was four. It is the most rewarding experience to give back that gift to other children who have no means of audio logical care.”

Noll said she hopes to also travel to Zambia or India next year.

“I’m looking to help at the non-profit audiology clinic that my boss has started in Lancaster County when I can while I’m still in graduate school,” Noll said.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 9,600 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.