A resident undergoes a hearing check at a free clinic hosted by the V.I. Health Department in partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation on May 21 at Sunshine Mall on St. Croix.

The V.I. Health Department has recognized hearing loss as an area of need in the community and researched and secured, with the assistance of Dr. Wincess Gentius, clinical doctor of audiology, support and resources to provide hearing tests and free hearing aids to individuals unable to afford them.

The DOH partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and on May 21 provided the gift of hearing to the residents on St. Croix. Out of 200 participants that were screened at the event at Sunshine Mall, 150 were eligible and fitted with hearing aids, the youngest patient being age 5.

All patients received ear screening, otoscopy and wax removal as needed, hearing testing, ear molds, hearing aid fittings, counseling and orientation on hearing aid use.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation team of 15 people flew to St. Croix from locations such as Guyana, Jamaica, Minnesota and Florida. Additionally, 25 local volunteers helped at the event, including Health Department staff, Barry University students and faculty and local physicians.

“Many of the St. Croix residents have been waiting a long time to access hearing health care due to the cost factor of obtaining hearing aids. The DOH and Starkey Foundation are very happy to provide the gift of hearing at no cost to the residents of St. Croix and soon the entire Virgin Islands,” said Gentius.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation is a Minnesota-based organization whose mission is to provide a million hearing aids around the world by 2020. All eligible clients were provided with hearing aids, battery supplies, maintenance and aftercare services at no charge.

This mission and collaboration gives the Health Department an opportunity to capture data on hearing loss, regarding the type and conditions that contributed to hearing loss and prevalence/incidence.

The department will hold a monthly follow-up/aftercare clinic. Current patients will be contacted to schedule appointments. Individuals that need assistance with their hearing aids should call 340-227-9011.

The department plans additional patient identification sessions in the fall that will encompass all three islands. To be included or for more information, call 340-718-1311, ext. 3789 or 3786.