'Once-in-a-lifetime chance' for Audiology students to build skills at Special Olympics

Audiology students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have helped screen around 500 athletes for hearing loss at the Special Olympics.

The group flew to Belgium to work with peers from Ghent University on the Healthy Hearing programme, set up to improve athletes' ability to train and compete.

 Special Olympics main

The experience has had many benefits for the DMU participants, from boosting confidence to improving communications skills.

"It's difficult to put into words how rewarding and amazing it was," said Mariam Piranie.

"It has made me a better communicator when it comes to language barriers with patients as well as increased my skills with patients with learning disabilities and how to work with them."

Fellow DMU student Mehwish Khokhar said: "I believe this experience has aided my confidence when making clinical judgements.

"More importantly, I feel more receptive to challenges, which will help me with the dynamics of audiology in a clinical setting.

"I would like to thank my senior lecturers - Wendy Stevens, for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build on our clinical skills, and Rob Frost, for his support."

The trip came about after a discussion between the Special Olympics global adviser for Healthy Hearing and Wendy, who described the Audiology students as 'amazing ambassadors for DMU'.

"They worked so hard," she said.

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Carrying out hearing screenings in a different country took students out of their comfort zone.

Mariam said: "The challenge was not being able to build a rapport quickly because of language barriers, but this helped in building friendships with the Belgian students, who happily taught us a few words in Dutch/French to be able to better communicate.

"I found that a smile is a universal language and just being excited to be there came across to the athletes, which made it easier to build a rapport and screen them.

"My highlight was screening an athlete who had a learning disability but got so excited that he learnt a bit of English by saying, 'Thank you' and 'Yes, okay'."

Special Olympics main 2

DMU students, from left, Preema Ruparelia, Sania Ali, Mehwish Khokhar and Mariam Piranie at the Special Olympics in Belgium

Mehwish enjoyed working with the Belgian students, who were 'very welcoming'.

"I particularly enjoyed learning about their academic experiences and the way in which their training differed from ours," she said.

Her highlight was seeing the smile on the athletes' faces when they were applauded for getting their hearing checked.

"I will always cherish this memory because it led me to meet such amazing athletes from around the world," she added.

Posted on Wednesday 3rd July 2019

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