By CAROLYN LUCAS-ZENK
Seven-year-old Kamalani Doctor wasn’t quite sure what she would hear on the morning of Feb. 14 after putting on the red and blue headphones. A Lions Club of Kona member told her to listen for a beep and to raise her hand at its sounding.
“I didn’t know what kind of beeps because, you know, beeps can be big or little, loud or quiet,” the Holualoa Elementary School second-grader said. “So, I sat very still, listened and was focused. It was good because I heard the beeps. They sounded like bird sounds — nice ones, too.”
Doctor said this was the first time she had her hearing checked and thought the test was important, just as important as the graded ones at school.
“It’s nice that (the Lions) are here doing this,” she said. “They are helping us learn about our ears and making sure all kids can hear.”
Doctor was among about 500 West Hawaii elementary school students who will receive a hearing screening this month from members of the Lions Club of Kona, with the support of the Kailua-Kona Lions and the Kaloko Branch Lions clubs. The screenings began Feb. 10 at Honaunau Elementary School, Hookena Elementary School, Kona Pacific Public Charter and Ke Kula o Ehunikaimalino, as well as continued Feb. 14 at Holualoa Elementary, Feb. 15 at Kahakai Elementary School, Feb. 21 at Kealakehe Elementary School and Feb. 22 at Innovations Public Charter and Konawaena Elementary School.
Over the past four years, the Lions Club of Kona has offered the free service, which is not a diagnostic procedure. The state Department of Health used to conduct hearing and vision screenings of all Hawaii Department of Education students. However, it stopped administering these programs because of limited funding and manpower, said Mitch Tam, Lions Club of Kona president.
With the ongoing budget cuts across the state and the nation, the participating Lions decided to step up and fill that gap by using the resources the West Hawaii clubs have. They’re devoted to ensuring all children are able to maximize their potential and have the tools better to understand, interact, be productive and succeed, Tam said. The projects are also a great way for Lions to give back to their community, he added.
The program goal is to help identify children most likely to have hearing impairments that may interfere with education and health. It also helps screen children who may be at risk for hearing loss. The target groups are first- and second-graders because they have the ability to understand the instruction and can interact with the Lions. This is also a way to catch possible problems or concerns earlier.
Along with the yearly hearing screenings, the Lions also conduct vision screenings at local elementary schools and through Project VISION. Using a 35-foot RV equipped with state-of-the-art digital imaging equipment, Project VISION is a nonprofit mobile screening unit that provides free retinal scans to underserved populations in different Big Island communities, Tam said.
Thirteen Lions donated their time Thursday at Holualoa Elementary, where they screened more than 150 students. Besides conducting visual inspections of students’ ears, they used an audiometer, an instrument that measures hearing one pitch at a time at various levels of loudness, and a tympanometer, which tests the condition of the middle ear by creating variations of air pressure. The screening only identifies those who pass and fail. Students who failed received a recommendation for a follow-up.
Although 8-year-old second-grader Cayden Jewell remembered having his hearing screened last year, he was still “kind of nervous.” Overall, he enjoyed the screening and was delighted to hear that his ears were “all good.” He thought the tympanometer was a funny tool because, when placed in his ear, it tickled.
Jewell said it makes him feel good that people are willing to donate their time to help students like him. He thinks it’s important students get their hearing checked regularly because “if you can’t hear, you may be missing what people are saying in class and everywhere you go.”
For more information about hearing screenings or the West Hawaii Lions Clubs, email Tam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit hawaiilions.org.
Email Caroyln Lucas-Zenk at email@example.com.