When you lose sight you lose touch with the world, but when you lose hearing – sense you lose touch with the people

Helen Keller, US Advisor on Hearing and Sight issues.

By TERENCE MUSUKU

 COMPLETENESS of human personality, viewed anatomically, is anchored on five valiant human senses: Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.

In essence and effect, when one of these five senses is dysfunctional or impaired, the affected person becomes physically handicapped, unable to lead a normal life.

A physically handicapped person, old or young, belongs to the vulnerable lot in society writhing in self-pity and groping in harrowing uncertainty!

Of course, health ministries in both developed and developing countries do exist for the function of providing preventive and curative medical services for containing and treating ailments impairing the five human senses.

In Zambia, specifically, the Ministry of Health is ticking with head-way, by clear-cut leaps and jumps, in this regard thus stands equal to the designated function of the ministry.

But in curbing and treating the hearing impairment, the Health Ministry has portrayed irresolute disposition. Yet, the manly all- round perfection includes, and is consummated, by ability of hearing.

For those born with hearing inability, the same as others with hearing impairment, their fate is hardest to fathom. It is far better, in point of fact, not to have been born with hearing inability.

This year, 2017, marks a century and six years since Zambia attained nation-hood in 1911, then under the rule of British South Africa Company headed by industrialist, John Cecil Rhodes.

He bequeathed the government reign to British Colonial Power in 1924. Thereafter, Zambia was granted self-rule in 1964 over half a century now.

What is so startling upon mulling over the successive Zambian governments, before and after attaining independence – between 1911 until 2016 when the incumbent President Edgar Lungu assumed the Presidency – nothing worthwhile has been undertaken to integrate audiology as a corollary in the preventive and curative measures of tackling hearing ailment.

Expressed implicitly, audiology deals in the provision of health-care entailing evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and management of hearing loss, tinnitus as well as balancing disorders in new–born, children and adults.

Audiology is equated, in a measure, to optometry – a medical practice dealing in measuring vision and prescribing corrective lenses to compensate for visual defects.

Another related medical branch is, and involves, a doctor specialising in otorhinolaryngology commonly known as ENT. It is a three-in-one speciality in ear, nose and throat treatment.

In the field of Audiology, as Zambia stands today, Alfred Mwamba, aged 38, is a phenomenal revelation with striking faculty he is endowed with incisively.

Firstly, as recorded in the annals of Zambian medical practitioners, he is, still is, the only audiologist holding this qualification in Zambia, neither among both Zambian indigenes and foreigners.

Secondly, he has galvanised world recognition audio logically underlined by his appointment as executive director, Starkey Hearing Foundation, Sub-Sahara region based in his mother-land, Zambia.

Thirdly, with this deserving appointment consequently, Zambia has been designated the continental head-quarters of Starkey Hearing Foundation responsible for offering training and capacity-development needed in running Audiology part of the Zambian Health Service.

Fourthly, Starkey Hearing Foundation holding global out-reach in no less than 100 countries, cogently decided to set up Starkey Hearing Institute in Zambia, the first ever in the world, purposefully for offering tutorship in Audiology in trainees drawn from Sub-Sahara Africa countries.

The first intake of 12 who had successfully completed one-year training, covering specialisation in the application of hearing instruments, diagnosis of hearing impairment as well as hearing treatment, graduated in December 2015.

Current intake features 10 trainees, commencing this year, who will graduate next year.

Administratively, Starkey Hearing Institute is a praise-worth establishment manned by a seven-man training staff headed by Alfred Mwamba … to achieve the sureness of the intended success.

But to run the institute par excellence, on sound foundation and dead certainty, the management counts on zestful training support offered by US Associate Professors on-line.

Who, posing a rhetorical question, is Alfred Mwamba, still a striking revelation in the Zambian Audiology field? A rare bird flying on earth!

Reciting the poetic words of William Shakespeare “Some are born great; some achieve greatness; and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

Audiologist Afred Mwamba portrays himself, in black and white, well- fitted in the classification of those born endowed with greatness.

Recollectively, the Zambian media published his profile revealingly in 2005 upon his home– returning from US after attaining MSc in Audiology, the study of Hearing Science.

His arrival in Zambia was, to the contrary, so poignant: dishonuored by his mother-land, Zambia. He was shunned to get employed by the Health Ministry, in spite of his MSC attainment in Audiology, the first and only one in Zambia.

The Government Department of Occupational Health and Safety, based in Kitwe frowned upon his employment application. This is the only alternative institution in Zambia to offer him employment.

When Mwamba hit the dead-end, in quest of getting employed, he reckoned to try one more possibility: to become a special medical advisor of President Levy Mwanawasa (late) dead – certain to placate his apparent stammering.

The Presidential medical advisors, for reasons undisclosed, treated Mwamba`s request as a non-starter. Then, thereafter, he made his mind to migrate either to South Africa or US where the possibility of getting employed was far beyond question.

The Ministry of Health, however after second –thoughts, decided to offer him employment. He quit after a short spell because, in his own words, “I found myself getting paid for doing nothing. I was working with hardly Audiology facilities made available.”

In a dramatic happening, hard to believe, Australian audiologist, Anita Dewet, who had read Mwamba`s profile published in the  Zambian media – which outlined the trying rejections he had faced in pursuit of employment in Zambia – flew from Australia to Zambia with soothing news.

She presented Mwamba freely Audiology equipment – audiometry and tympanometry – worth US$10,000. This donation served as stimulus for Mwamba to set up his own Audiology clinic ever in Zambia.

So promptly, he started running his hearing clinic with hunched attitude, initially at Mandevu Catholic Church Clinic building in Lusaka. Thereafter, he was enticed by Beit Cure Hospital Management to run the Audiology Clinic there under agreed upon memorandum of understanding.

Mwamba`s journey in the audiological field, seemingly, keeps spanning infinitely. From Beit Cure Hospital, a privately run entity, he willed setting up a paragon of Audiology Clinic in Zambia – Trinity Hearing Centre.

While achieving elevation remarkably, higher and higher in rapid succession, he has ultimately merited his appointment by Starkey Hearing Foundation, as the Executive Director for Sub-Sahara Africa region.

World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates people afflicted with hearing impairment in the range of 360 million. Sub-Sahara Africa accounts for 44 million while Zambia is now closing to a million.

The causes of deafness in Zambia as elsewhere in the world include: obstruction of the middle ear induced by inflammation caused by infection fever in childhood; throat infection, growth of spongy bone around the inner- ear; damage to the cochlea; auditory nerve and brain arising from shock and very loud noise.

Diseases-caused impairment arise from: concussion, fracture of the skull, haemorrhage; tumours or drugs, abscesses; damage to the cochlea induced by meningitis; mumps, typhoid fever and syphilis, tonsils and TB, HIV, physical trauma; ototoxicity from the use of quinine in malaria treatment.

In the management ethics and modus operandi applicable, Starkey Hearing Foundation chief executive –cum- founder, William F. Austin exercises his settled conviction of offering due employment appointment to meritorious professionals in the likes of Afred Mwamba.

Our winsome Zambian First Lady, Esther Lungu, has equally stunned Starkey Hearing Foundation helmsman, Austin and his wife, Tani. She has gone the whole hog, applying the muscle of her own Esther Lungu Foundation, entwined with Alfred Mwamba in tandem.

What expectation is derivable from Alfred Mwamba-Esther Lungu combination: absorbing, engaging partnership – nothing less and nothing more.

The Zambian First Lady, as nodded by Starkey Hearing Foundation, has emerged “the first high level partner in Africa” to recognise the importance of hearing health being an esteemed advocate for disabilities – afflicted people.

It is as note-worthy as it goes without saying, that through her commitment, it turned out propitious for the Zambian Government to facilitate the establishment of the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Zambia.

Her own foundation, distinctively, plays a vital role in the mobilisation of hearing impaired patients across Zambia through:

  • Raising awareness along with other First Ladies around the world.
  • Provision of hearing aids to Zambians with hearing impairment;
  • She features at every fitting held by Starkey Hearing Institute to sensitive the people on the hearing-impairment scourge.

Ultimately, for all her contributions noted in fostering Audiology in Zambia, Starkey Hearing Foundation, the largest NGO in hearing health in the world, deservingly honoured the first lady with a special award at a memorable ceremony held in the US on July 16 this year.

Alfred Mwamba , in his position as the executive director of Starkey Hearing Foundation, Sub-Sahara Africa region, new hobnobs with chief executive, William Austin, and the likes of former US Presidents (Bill Clinton and George Bush, Jr.), Jessie Jackson and Andrew Young at international fora.

Providentially, Mwamba was born to serve Zambia and the world at large in the only field, God willed – Audiology. Self-affirmed, self-evidenced!

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