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Indian athletes Jyothi A (left), Shruti M.S. (centre) and Rinci Biju after receiving their hearing aids. Image Credit: N.D. Prashant/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: At a time when the world is battling hate and negativity, to see 121 determined athletes burst into tears of joy as they stepped out from the depths of deafness makes for a heartening story.

On Friday, Gulf News reported on Senegal’s Determined footballer Mame Mdiaye, who got the gift of hearing after 31 years, when he turned up at the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Centre’s ‘Healthy Hearing’ pavilion in the ongoing Games at the capital.

A day later, on Saturday, there were 121 others like him, thanks to hearing aids provided to them by Starkey Hearing Technologies. A screening of 3,000 athletes from 41 countries established the number of athletes that needed the aids. Those who benefited included both those who had full and partial hearing loss and they came from different countries, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Palestine, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Gibraltar, Ukraine, South Africa, Slovenia, Philippines, Peru, USA and Trinidad.

The athletes could barely hide their excitement. India’s basketball player Rinci Biju screamed at the top of her voice, “I can hear not only you but also everyone in the hall.” Her joy touched everyone’s hearts. “I’m happy more because I can now play well. When you can’t hear at all, it is difficult to know what others want you to do. I want to call my mum first now. She will be thrilled,” said an emotional Rinci, who had a congenital defect in the ear and was handed a special hearing device.

Jyoti A, another athlete from India, was abandoned at birth and brought up by a charity organisation Nirmal Sadan Special School.

When Starkey’s CEO and doctor Bill Austin and his wife Tani Austin checked her, they felt she needed an operation to avoid complete hearing loss. A frightened Jyoti refused instantly but her nerves were put to rest once they tried the device. “I can hear, loud and clear. This is enough, no need for operation,” she gushed with a large smile writ on her face.

Similarly, Shruti MS, a badminton player with the India team, couldn’t hear at all as she couldn’t afford a hearing aid. Now that she got one, she burst into tears and hugged her coach tight.

Her immediate query with tears rolling was, “Will I be able to get another one if something happens to this?” The question left everyone around numb.

A volunteer stepped in immediately to inform her about a helpline. “Your device will be replaced, don’t worry we have offices in 64 countries, including one in Delhi.”

For Bill and Tina, enabling such life changing experiences has become a way of life.

“Well, Austin is 78 now and I’m 61, but the energy that we get from these smiles is unbelievable. Yes, we do get tired like anyone would working, but the will is there to keep going. There is so much satisfaction in helping kids with hearing and making them understand there is nothing wrong with their brains. They only need more assistance with sound. Hearing aids just send that signal to the brains and connect the sound to the brain,” said Tina.

How a hearing aid helps

A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. The device receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.