Detecting Pediatric Hearing Loss in Tacuna, Peru

Center for Global Health
October 30, 2022
Megan Dempsey assists a child with a hearing test in Peru.
Headshot of Megan Dempsey

Undetected hearing loss is a significant issue in Peru, particularly for children. In the Spring of 2022, 3rd-year College of Medicine student Megan Dempsey traveled to Tacuna, Peru to work with several medical campaigns organized within the city to develop a system for adequately screening children utilizing a Shoebox audiometer, a valuable portable tool for detecting hearing loss in children. Meghan is passionate about health equity and serving the underserved, and was particularly interested in health access within South America as she grew up in Brazil.

Megan reflects on her experience:

A child takes a hearing test in Peru.During my time in Tacna, Peru, I was able to experience not only a multitude of new and diverse clinical opportunities but also able to immerse myself in the Peruvian culture. Staying with a host family, I was able to eat traditional Peruvian meals speak almost completely in Spanish, attend house parties and their local church, and even attend a traditional Peruvian wedding ceremony! Other than these cultural experiences, I was also able to accomplish what I went to Tacna for.

We were able to host three medical campaigns during my time in Peru, where we provided vital audiometry services to a community in which this type of screening service is lacking. Although the pediatrician I worked with obviously specializes in children, we also focused on screening older adults as well and were able to pinpoint several patients who may have needed additional screening and guidance. It was so rewarding and enlightening to see how such a simple, easy, portable screening tool could give so much value to a community in providing a service where there was a gap. It truly inspired me and got into my passions and interests in global health.

A clinic in Peru.

My research interest is primarily focused on global health and health disparity, and this project truly highlighted those things. I am most grateful not for the experience of conducting this type of research, but for being blessed with the opportunity to provide a small change in a need in a community. I am hopeful that change will continue to occur, and that the tablet audiometer we used would continue to provide a valuable service to that community. I am also hopeful that there would be continuity in the screening services we offered and saw that after our last medical campaign which provided a lot of much-needed publicity to the clinic in Tacna. I am hopeful that the medical campaigns we performed would allow people within the community to know and trust the clinic to increase continuity of care not only within the audiometer services but also in general health and wellness for that community.

Overall, I am so grateful to have been able to have this opportunity and am hopeful that I can continue to stay involved in Tacna, whether virtually accompanying the clinic or visiting again in the future.