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Bringing the gift of hearing to Guatemalan villagers

Seventeen hearing-impaired Guatemalan children and adults had tubes implanted in their ears by an ear-nose-and-throat specialist from UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“When the audiologist switched on the hearing aid, Miguel started dancing around the room to the music. We almost started crying.” Mark Hoeplinger, M.D.
ENT specialist, UB clinical instructor, on one of his young Guatemalan patients

Mark Hoeplinger, M.D., a UB clinical instructor in otolaryngology, diagnosed the hearing problems during a trip to two remote villages in the Guatemalan highlands, part of a contingent of medical personnel who treated nearly 2,300 people, many of whom never had seen a doctor.

He saw more than 200 children and adults in the village clinics during his initial trip. While several needed surgery, many patients had healthy eardrums but their auditory nerves were defective. Hoeplinger fitted them with rudimentary hearing aids that he brought along, which produced dramatic results.

"A 5-year-old named Miguel had a severely deteriorated auditory nerve that provided only a little sound, but his ear drums were healthy, so we fit him with a hearing aid," says Hoeplinger. "Distant music was wafting in through the open windows, and when the audiologist switched on the hearing aid, Miguel started dancing around the room to the music. We almost started crying."

Hoeplinger plans to return to Guatemala in winter 2010 to start an otolaryngology training program for Guatemalan doctors.

“The nearest ENT program is in Mexico City,” he says. “Guatemala needs its own training program, and I hope to help get that started.”

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ENT specialist from UB brings sounds to hearing-impaired Guatemalans

Heard for the First Time

School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences on UB's South CampusUB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences