Dr. David Illich’s life’s work is to open up the world of sound to people with impaired hearing. It is life-changing for the people he helps.
In early December, Dr. Illich Au.D, chief audiologist at Palomar Health, traveled to Tuxtla, Chiapas and Merida, Yucatán, Mexico with his wife Kathleen and a team from the Starkey Hearing Foundation, to fit hundreds of people with hearing devices. The mission is part of the “So the World May Hear” program that Palomar Health partners in with Starkey. Many of the hearing devices were donated to Palomar Health earlier in the year during the used hearing aid collection drive.
The patients in Mexico ranged in age from three years to the late 90s. Many came on foot from distant villages Among them was a woman who had given up being a nurse because of her hearing loss, who now has a chance to get her career and her life back. The wife of one 90-year-old man who was fitted cried, “I have my husband back!” They also fitted a device for a man who was deaf and nearly blind as well as a 10-year-old boy named Angel whose parents had given up hope after his hearing was severely damaged by a teacher beat his ears repeatedly. After receiving the hearing aid, his parents say “he began talking up a storm.”
“Those with hearing loss are stuck in a life of silence and dependency,” said Dr. Illich. “When you give somebody who has been living in silence the ability to talk with their family, you give them their life back. And we gave a thousand people their lives back—not just for the holidays, but for the rest of their lives.”
These missions are exhausting, but rewarding, according to Dr. Illich. They worked 10 to 12 hour days every day to make sure all of the patients were given the gift of hearing.
“It was a beautiful experience for Kathleen and myself,” said Dr. Illich, who sums up his passion for helping people in just a few words: “We live through what we give.”