You’ve likely heard a ton of news on the war in Ukraine, but something that hasn’t been widely reported is the impact that the war has had on the hearing health of refugees. When you consider that Ukrainian refugees are exposed to bombs and missiles, it’s no surprise that many people have suffered from hearing loss. It’s a real crisis, and there’s an urgent need for volunteers to help provide refugees with care.
Many refugees have fled their home country and have sought refuge in the neighboring country of Poland. And since the refugees are leaving their homes in such a hurry, many arrive at the Polish border without their hearing aids. Can you imagine being without the hearing aids that you rely on each day and having no way to get them back?
The Impact of War on Hearing Health
War has a significant impact on the hearing health of everyone involved. It’s common for members of the military to suffer from hearing loss and tinnitus. Actually, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, hearing loss accounts for a staggering 10% of the disabilities that veterans experience.
But it’s not only the military that suffers. Civilians are also exposed to dangerous levels of loud noise in areas where war is taking place. And this isn’t something that people typically think about.
Volunteers helping the Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border have noted that many people suffer from tinnitus due to exposure to loud blasts. Unfortunately, in some cases this hearing loss is permanent. Since these refugees are displaced from their homes, they don’t have access to their usual medical care. It’s likely that they’ll miss their routine visits to their doctors. And this is why the work of volunteers is so important.
How NIU Volunteers Are Assisting Ukrainian Refugees
Early last year, a professor and audiologist from Northern Illinois University (NIU), King Chung, PhD., felt compelled to take action to help the Ukrainian refugees who had fled to Poland. Chung connected with the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, which provides support and housing for refugees.
Together with the Jewish Community Center and other volunteers from NIU, Chung was able to help test the hearing of 150 refugees. And the results were significant – more than half of those who had their hearing tested were experiencing a hearing loss.
Now, not all of these people are suffering from a hearing loss as a result of the war, but Chung estimates that around 30% of people have a hearing loss that was, in fact, caused by the extremely loud sounds of bombs and missiles.
Chung returned to Poland this past March of 2023 along with more volunteers from three other universities. And this time, the goal was to fit as many people as possible with hearing aids that would dramatically improve their conditions and quality of life. This turned out to be an emotional experience, as a few people were moved to tears when they realized that they were able to hear clearly once again.
Chung plans to continue her efforts to help as many refugees as possible. And if you’re inclined, you can get involved too.
How You Can Contribute
If you’re interested in getting involved and helping the Ukrainian refugee community on their journey to recovery and better hearing, here’s how you can contribute.
- You can make a donation to the NIU Foundation here. Be sure to select “audiology-general” from the dropdown menu.
- Then, be sure to send an email to the NIU Foundation at email@example.com to specify your name and donation amount for Heart of Hearing for Ukrainian Refugees.
- You can donate hearing aids by emailing Dr. King Chung at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a hearing loss, our team at West Coast Hearing and Balance would be honored to support you in your journey to better hearing and a happier life. Our team of audiologists are the most trusted hearing care experts in Ventura and Los Angeles.