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Aid for hearing in Congo

12 July, 2018

Prue Boyd attends to a patient. A grant from Anglican Overseas Aid will be used to purchase a machine that measures how the eardrum and middle-ear works.

Prue Boyd is a CMS missionary who has worked as an audiologist for many years. Much of that time has been spent in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Anglican Overseas Aid is providing a grant to Prue for her audiology work in Congo, and we spoke to her recently about this work and her motivations for committing her life to a place so far away.

The last time Prue and her husband, David, returned to Congo was in 2014. They have been there ever since. Living in the town of Bukavu, in the east of the country near the border of Rwanda and Burundi, Prue’s initial intention was to do a bit of audiology work as well as teaching health and nutrition.

After a short time however, Prue discovered the enormous need for audiology in Congo. Amazingly, there was only one other audiologist in the whole country. The population of Congo is 78 million.

The tympanometer in use.

When we interviewed Prue, the first question that came to mind was, “why does a place like Congo have so many people with hearing problems?”

It turns out that the ear problems are largely a result of middle-ear infections. Diseases such as meningitis are more prevalent in Congo than they are in Australia. Diseases like that can make a child completely deaf. Another issue is inappropriate use of medications, or trauma in the form of motorbike accidents, and ongoing conflict.

So, what is it that inspires a couple to leave their comfortable surrounds in Australia and head for central Africa to dedicate their lives to the people there? Prue explains,

“The reason we went to Congo was because of the great need there. The needs and our skills combined so that it seemed a logical step to go. The needs in Congo were far greater than any other place that CMS was working in.”

Prue’s main motivation however is to show God’s love to people. “I used to think I was a lesser missionary because I wasn’t a Bible teacher or I wasn’t evangelising. I believe that God is using me to show his love for these people through how I can care for them,” she says.

The grant from Anglican Overseas Aid will be used to purchase a tympanometer. This is a machine that measures how the eardrum and middle-ear works. The tympanometer helps identify middle-ear problems.

“This is a fabulous tool because it is a screening tool. You just need to put it in the person’s ear and then get a reading about the condition of their ear. It’s perfect for little children and it is quick. It will make a huge difference”, exclaims Prue.

The grant from Anglican Overseas Aid is also providing special headphones to provide more accurate testing, particularly for middle-ear problems.

Detecting and repairing hearing loss has an enormous impact on healing the social isolation that occurs with children who have hearing problems. Prue explains,

Many children are benefiting from the use of the tympanometer.

“It starts when a parent brings their child in who may not be doing well at school. It is often because the child has a moderate hearing loss and cannot hear what the teacher is saying. They then sit at the back of the classroom because they are taller than everyone else. They are taller because they have failed a number of years at school and are older than the other students.

When the child realises they have a hearing loss, it actually helps a great deal because they realise they are not deficient in intelligence. Often a child might be described as stupid or cursed. Then working with the teacher they might put the child at the front of the class. That will make a significant difference.”

The machine that Anglican Overseas Aid is providing the grant for helps identify the type of hearing loss. This then goes a long way to being able to determine the correct solution. If it’s a middle-ear problem, it can usually be fixed with some sort of drug treatment. If it’s a perforation in their ear and it has been there for a long time, they may be able to have surgery.

It is a wonderful expression of care that Prue is giving to the people of Congo. And it is a wonderful privilege for us to be part of it.

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