Hofstra hearing specialist Aniruddha Deshpande hopes students will travel to countries to...

Hofstra hearing specialist Aniruddha Deshpande hopes students will travel to countries to provide audiology services to areas around the world that need them most. Credit: Hofstra University

Just back from Guyana and heading soon to help Ukrainian war refugees in Poland, Hofstra University hearing specialist Aniruddha Deshpande is chasing his dream of providing audiology services to areas around the world that need them most.

Deshpande has no budget or staff, at least for now, but he’s working with Hofstra and Northwell Health to launch the Global Audiology Network, which he hopes will enhance treatment, provide more specialists, and build collaborations with health officials and governments in countries in need.

It’s a humanitarian effort with little if any precedent, as global health initiatives tend to address high-profile, devastating conditions such as malaria and AIDS. But Deshpande stressed that hearing problems are a "hidden disability" that, in the young, can limit their entire lives and, for adults, can be linked to depression and social isolation.

"Yeah, it's different," he said of his effort to create the global initiative. “The aim of the Global Audiology Network is to establish robust networks in global communities in need — by providing audiological assessment/management services to patients, resources such as hearing aids for the community, training for the local clinicians, and exposure to the global audiology landscape via humanitarian efforts for audiology students."

The need is evident, he said. About 20% of the world's population has some form of hearing loss, and an estimated 80% of those people live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Guyana was his first stop, where he spent a week meeting with the minister of health for the government and the vice chancellor of the University of Guyana, as well as visiting medical facilities to assess the needs, said Deshpande, a Hofstra associate professor of audiology and chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. 

He said he saw that the country in northeast South America, where nearly half the population lives in poverty, had no educational programs to produce audiologists, only an 18-month course that certifies audiology technicians — and that there were only 27 of them serving a population of some 820,000 people.

"Guyana has immense needs" for equipment such as sound booths to do hearing tests, management software to dispense hearing aids and academic courses to educate more specialists, he said.

He returned on Saturday, and he is working with Northwell Health's Center for Global Health at Hofstra. He's taking advantage of the health center's partnerships with countries such as Guyana, Ukraine, India and Ecuador. Deshpande's hope is that Hofstra students studying audiology will be able to serve some time helping people in those countries.

Hofstra and Northwell are funding his travel expenses, he said. Hofstra is also excusing him from teaching one of his three courses this semester to work on the project, while continuing to pay him for all three.

Reggie Alston, dean at Hofstra's School of Health Sciences, said Deshpande's efforts reflect the school's mission to produce graduates who have an understanding of how to build healthy communities globally.

"We support the Global Audiology Network because it promotes equity and social justice for the underserved, whether in our country or abroad," Alston said.

Dr. Eric Cioè-Peña, vice president of global health for Northwell, said he understands that audiology may not be at the top of the list for global health needs, "but it's important to how patients live and lead quality lives." 

Deshpande's globe-hopping continues March 22, when he will head to Poland with King Chung of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions to help refugees of the Ukraine-Russia war.

"A lot of them were actively engaged or affected by the war," Deshpande said, including being close to exploding bombs. "Loud noises are a top cause for hearing loss."

Just back from Guyana and heading soon to help Ukrainian war refugees in Poland, Hofstra University hearing specialist Aniruddha Deshpande is chasing his dream of providing audiology services to areas around the world that need them most.

Deshpande has no budget or staff, at least for now, but he’s working with Hofstra and Northwell Health to launch the Global Audiology Network, which he hopes will enhance treatment, provide more specialists, and build collaborations with health officials and governments in countries in need.

It’s a humanitarian effort with little if any precedent, as global health initiatives tend to address high-profile, devastating conditions such as malaria and AIDS. But Deshpande stressed that hearing problems are a "hidden disability" that, in the young, can limit their entire lives and, for adults, can be linked to depression and social isolation.

"Yeah, it's different," he said of his effort to create the global initiative. “The aim of the Global Audiology Network is to establish robust networks in global communities in need — by providing audiological assessment/management services to patients, resources such as hearing aids for the community, training for the local clinicians, and exposure to the global audiology landscape via humanitarian efforts for audiology students."

The need is evident, he said. About 20% of the world's population has some form of hearing loss, and an estimated 80% of those people live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Guyana was his first stop, where he spent a week meeting with the minister of health for the government and the vice chancellor of the University of Guyana, as well as visiting medical facilities to assess the needs, said Deshpande, a Hofstra associate professor of audiology and chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences. 

He said he saw that the country in northeast South America, where nearly half the population lives in poverty, had no educational programs to produce audiologists, only an 18-month course that certifies audiology technicians — and that there were only 27 of them serving a population of some 820,000 people.

"Guyana has immense needs" for equipment such as sound booths to do hearing tests, management software to dispense hearing aids and academic courses to educate more specialists, he said.

He returned on Saturday, and he is working with Northwell Health's Center for Global Health at Hofstra. He's taking advantage of the health center's partnerships with countries such as Guyana, Ukraine, India and Ecuador. Deshpande's hope is that Hofstra students studying audiology will be able to serve some time helping people in those countries.

Hofstra and Northwell are funding his travel expenses, he said. Hofstra is also excusing him from teaching one of his three courses this semester to work on the project, while continuing to pay him for all three.

Reggie Alston, dean at Hofstra's School of Health Sciences, said Deshpande's efforts reflect the school's mission to produce graduates who have an understanding of how to build healthy communities globally.

"We support the Global Audiology Network because it promotes equity and social justice for the underserved, whether in our country or abroad," Alston said.

Dr. Eric Cioè-Peña, vice president of global health for Northwell, said he understands that audiology may not be at the top of the list for global health needs, "but it's important to how patients live and lead quality lives." 

Deshpande's globe-hopping continues March 22, when he will head to Poland with King Chung of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions to help refugees of the Ukraine-Russia war.

"A lot of them were actively engaged or affected by the war," Deshpande said, including being close to exploding bombs. "Loud noises are a top cause for hearing loss."

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