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Helping babies hear through Helping Hands

Audiologist Annabelle Anae from Laie, Hawaii (L) joins Dr. Wendy Switalski, from Detroit Michigan as they proudly show off the newest auditory screening room located at the Helping Babies Hear/ Helping Hands office in the Fagaima building complex just off the main airport road in Fagaima.


The new screening room, which features Disney character Dumbo (with his signature large ears) is a soundproof room which was grant funded and built to give developmental hearing assistance to infants and young children from the age of 0-3 years. 


While babies are screened for hearing at birth at LBJ Medical Center, those who don’t pass their initial screenings are scheduled for follow up hearing tests at Helping Babies Hear / Helping Hands, where they are given extensive 30-40 minute audiological evaluations. 


“Newborn hearing screening is essential to our children’s overall health and development, and when it is not identified, it can affect their performance in school. The sooner they are identified as far as hearing issues are concerned, the sooner we can refer them to early intervention for help with speech and language” says Helping Babies Hear program manager, Bethany Toelupe.


Dr. Switalski has been traveling to the territory a few times a year for the past several years, where she has brought her expertise as well as diagnostic equipment to the LBJ Ear, Nose and Throat clinic. She has been instrumental in assisting the Helping Babies Hear/ Helping Hands program in its ongoing efforts to ensure that the children of the territory are given proper diagnosis and aid for hearing problems. She was joined in this effort recently by Annabelle Anae, who is of American Samoan ancestry and based in Hawaii. 


The two plan to return to the territory later this year, where they will continue to provide auditory and developmental care for our little ones. 


The Disney mural was created by All Star Signs, and HBH felt that it was important that our local children have a happy and comfortable place to sit while having their hearing tests done. 


Dr. Jean Anderson, the coordinator of the Helping Babies Hear program, would like everyone to know that their office is open to the public and walk-ins are welcome. Screenings (for children ages 0-3) are provided on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment, and staff can be reached at 699-4990 — please ask for June, Sina or Bethany. All screenings are free of charge.