Yin Yin is 8 years old and has been hearing impaired from birth – until recently, she’s never been able to hear or speak. She lives with her family on the Thai-side of the Thai-Burma border. Here is her story…
Family background: In 1995 Yin Yin’s parents lost their first child to malaria. In 1997 there was conflict in the area where Yin Yin’s family were living and they were displaced for about three years. They moved from place to place and didn’t have a safe place to call home. After the loss of her first child, Yin Yin’s mother fell pregnant to her second child and gave birth prematurely in March 2000 while she was displaced and living in the jungle. Luckily there was a traditional birth attendant who was able to help her deliver her daughter (now 11). The young family left Burma and found their way to a refugee camp in southern Thailand. They moved to a bigger camp near Mae Sot the follow year and were reunited with other members of the family.
Yin Yin was born at Mae Sot hospital. In 2005, her family moved out of the camp to try and find work. Yin Yin’s parents were both teachers and got jobs teaching at a migrant school.
Medical history: Yin Yin’s mother first noticed that Yin Yin had a hearing problem when she was one year old. Her parents would make a noise and Yin Yin would not turn around or respond. If there was a loud noise when she was asleep, she was oblivious to it and wouldn’t wake up. Her parents took her to a small Thai clinic where a doctor said that it was a congenital problem and that they could not do anything for her. Her mother was very sad to hear this and felt depressed.
In September 2010, a foreign volunteer who was teaching English at the school took Yin Yin to the local hospital. The hospital did not have the facilities to make an accurate diagnosis but they said that Yin Yin might have some hearing in her left ear. They said that Yin Yin should go to Chiang Mai for further investigation and to see if a hearing aid could be fitted. The family were unable to take Yin Yin to Chiang Mai as they couldn’t afford it and were also unable to travel as they didn’t have the required documents. They brought Yin Yin to Mae Tao Clinic and she was referred to Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) in February 2011.
At the time, Yin Yin was going to school but could not hear what the teachers were saying. Instead she relied on her vision by looking at pictures and copying script down in English and Burmese. She liked to play with her friends and her older sister. She makes herself understood by moving her hands and using a made-up sign language to communicate what she needs.
Yin Yin’s condition was causing much sadness for her family. They felt frustrated and they didn’t know where to turn for help. Yin Yin’s mother said that she would like her daughter to be like other children – speak, talk, and hear.
Treatment:Yin Yin traveled to Chiang Mai on 21 February 2011 where she saw a hearing specialist. She was fitted with a hearing aid straight away and she returned on 24 February with her mother. Since having the hearing aid fitted, Yin Yin is more actively engaged with her surroundings than ever before. She is able to call out to her friends and enjoy playing with them because she can now interact and she is learning to talk to them. Her friends understand that the ‘thing’ behind her ear enables her to hear (hearing aid). She can now follow her friends when they call out to her. Before her friends used to have to grab her by the hand and lead her off to play, but now they can just call out to her.
Yin Yin can now pronounce words. Previously, she made noises but her mother couldn’t understand her. When she tries to speak now, the words are much clearer and her mother can understand what she is saying. Her mother is taking the time to sit down and talk with her daughter a lot so she can get used to the sounds of words and listening to people. Yin Yin is very bright – she has just finished the school year and has passed all of her exams (despite not being able to hear for most of the year). She can write in Burmese and she likes to draw pictures.
The future:Yin Yin’s family are very happy that she can now hear and that she is can now pronounce words and is learning to talk. Her family feel very lucky that Yin Yin was able to receive the treatment she needed to be able to hear. Everyone was looking at the device sitting behind her left ear with great curiosity. Yin Yin did not realize what all the fuss was about. Her mother believes that Yin Yin is predisposed to being a teacher when she grows up. She wants to say ‘thank you very much’ to the supporters at BCMF who helped make it possible for her daughter to hear. Yin Yin’s mother never thought that she would receive help like this for her daughter. Without help, her daughter would be deaf for her entire life. Yin Yin can now hear and she has a very bright future to look forward to.