When Specsavers Wexford’s audiology team RHAD, Rachel Hetherington, fitted Syrian refugee Ali Hussein with digital hearing aids, it was an emotional and lifechanging experience for them both.
Thousands of miles from home, 40-year-old Ali was unable to keep in touch with his family and loved ones in Syria due to his severe to profound hearing loss. This left him feeling even more isolated and alone in a country far from home. To make matters worse, his hearing loss prevented him from being able to learn English and meant he couldn’t fully integrate into his new life in Ireland. Ali wasn’t feeling very hopeful, but as a last hope, he decided to seek help at Specsavers Wexford.
That trip literally changed his life and gave him a newfound confidence.
‘I am forever grateful to Rachel for her kindness, patience and generosity,’ he says. ‘I never thought I would ever be able to hear like this again. The difference it has made is incredible. I only wish I had asked for help sooner. These hearing aids have changed my life. They have given me confidence, a connection to the outside world. They have opened me up to opportunity – to make a life for myself here in Ireland as I finally will be able to learn English. But I will also be able to speak and hear my family back home in Syria which is an immeasurable comfort.’
When Rachel first met Ali, they initially struggled through his first appointment, due to the language barrier, but it was clear he needed help.
‘It got me thinking about how he must struggle throughout his daily interactions as he can’t hear and doesn’t have any English,’ Rachel explains. ‘I knew he needed hearing aids and was determined to find a solution to help as best I could. I knew they would change his life and on meeting Ali I was compelled to find a way to help.’
Rachel sought the support of Seham, who works with DORAS, a non- profit organization based in Limerick, to act as a translator for Ali. A follow-up appointment was quickly scheduled, and Rachel learned that previously a consultant diagnosed Ali with a genetic hearing condition, causing severe to profound hearing loss. This was further impacted by the sounds of conflict and war from when he grew up in Syria. Rachel recognised the severe to profound hearing loss and advised that whilst hearing cannot be restored, aids could help to give him some clarity and less distorted hearing in background noise.
Rachel set out to find a supplier who might be in a position to provide hearing aids for Ali on hearing his story. She spoke to James Goggin at Sivantos who was only too happy to support him and donate a pair of digital hearing aids.
The night before Ali was due to return to the store, Rachel was excited at the prospect of helping him to have a better quality of hearing but was also nervous at the enormity of the task.
It turned out to be an incredibly emotionally experience.
‘The moment I connected the hearing aids to the software and fitted them in Ali’s ears, to see the instant impact on him was quite emotional. How he struggled to hear me on day one, to now be sitting here and hearing every word I said. While he still had no English, his smile truly said it all.
‘To see someone, who hasn’t had much to smile about in the last few years, have a smile on his face and be so grateful for something that I am so passionate about, that isn’t a huge inconvenience to me – that certainly gave me something to smile about.’
Translator Seham was equally touched by the experience. ‘To seeing Ali get his hearing aids and witness the moment he could hear was incredible. You couldn’t help but smile. This experience with Ali, meeting Rachel who went out of her way to help, shows you that there are still good people in this world.’
Rachel will never forget her experience with Ali as it has had such a profound impact on her. She hopes to continue to help people where she can, just like she did with Ali.
Specsavers Wexford remains open for all eye care and hearing needs, in line with the latest government guidance despite the move to Level 5. The government has recognised opticians and audiologists as providing essential healthcare services and this means that Specsavers will continue to keep their doors open to the public and offer a full breadth of services to the local community.
For more information or to make an appointment at Specsavers Wexford, located at 25 South Main Street, please call 053 912 3789 or visit Specsavers.ie to book online.