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July 26, 2013

Making a difference

Port audiologist gives hearing screenings in India

As an audiologist, Daniel Hendrix knows that the average person’s hearing in the United States is above average.

“Here in the U.S. when children are born, they are screened for hearing with equipment right in the hospital for hearing loss,” Hendrix said. “They are monitored yearly in the schools. That’s something that’s really watched over carefully here, but in India, because of lack of services, they are more interested in surviving, and (concern about) losing your hearing is pretty low.”

Once a year, Hendrix, 55, leaves the comfort of his Newburyport practice, Digital Hearing Healthcare, to visit hospitals and orphanages in northeast India, where he administers hearing tests and teaches the locals how to use the equipment that he brings.

“An ear infection here that could get a quick antibacterial agent to clear it up will just go on and on and destroy children’s hearing over there,” said Hendrix, who recently visited the tribal areas of Assam and Mizoram for the third time.

“The biggest challenge, technically, is the language,” Hendrix said. “Although they do speak English in the medical field, but when it comes to working with the general population, the language is a big one.”

It was Hendrix’s fascination with linguistics that first found him in these areas where each tribe has a language all their own.

“Northeast India has one of the most diverse linguistic populations in the world,” said Hendrix, who lives in Bradford. “It’s a place that has a high density of completely different languages. So, that’s what got me interested in the area, and when I found out that there was such a lack of services for the deaf population, I thought I could make a contribution by taking equipment in and training local medical professionals on how to do the work.”

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