Armen Kavoukjian extends his hand to fit a new hearing aid to a 42-year-old patient who is sitting in a chair, waiting for the unknown. Before, this patient never wore a hearing aid, got angry when wanted to watch a movie, but didn't hear anything when there was a heated discussion in the circle of friends, realized late what was being said, and could not participate in the conversation.
A minute or two, and gradually a light smile appears on the man's face, and a sparkle appears in his eyes. Before, he managed to understand the speech by looking at the speaker's lips, but now he listens to the words of the person standing behind him and confidently answers Kavoukjian's questions, describes what he feels. He realizes that now he can hear much better, it is unusual for him so far, and he tries to suppress his joy. It seems that the person sitting in front of us a minute ago was a completely different person.
The hearing aid was provided to the man free of charge within the framework of the Armenia Hearing Aid Project, an annual project in which hearing aids are provided free of charge to persons who for one reason or another were not included in other such assistance programs.
Taking into account the specifics of the activity and hearing requirements, middle-class hearing aids are mainly provided to elderly people, and high-class digital hearing aids are provided to younger people, which can be adjusted not only manually, but also with a special smartphone app. A charger is also provided with the device, and after installation, the patient receives advice on the use of the hearing aid and the app. If the device is lost, it can be found with the help of that same app. Also, it can adjust the volume based on the location.
So, for example, Hovhannes, who is a programmer, will be able to adjust the sound perception of his device at the workplace and in any other place. For example, he will be able to neutralize the surrounding noise if it disturbs him.
After the installation of the device, a free monitoring service is available. The beneficiary can call or go to a service center operating in the area of the "Arabkir" Medical Complex with any question related to the hearing aid. Services include fixing device or charger problems, providing batteries, as well as long-term monitoring of patients.
Armen and Haykuhi Kavukchyan's idea is supported by their friends and relatives from Los Angeles, as well as their four sons. Many volunteers from both the US and Armenia participate in the initiative. Thanks to the joint work, this humanitarian mission is being carried out for the sixth year already.
Palestinian audiologist Hanin Lahseh visits Armenia every year as part of the project to contribute to people's health. Lahseh says that the reason for participating in this project is the great love for Armenia and Armenians.
The rooms where people are provided with hearing aids can be called "miracle" rooms because one enters there, but comes out a completely different person who is happy, refreshed, and ready to travel the world and conquer Mount Everest.
A 49-year-old woman, whose hearing problems were caused by an accident four years ago, leaves the room with tears in her eyes. "Not listening is the same as not living. You can't imagine what it's like... Due to hearing problems, there were situations when people got upset with me. For example, they said hello, but I didn't hear them. Now everything will be different. I am very grateful to these wonderful people for the opportunity to listen. Listening is everything," she says.
Another woman tries to listen to the swish of an ordinary plastic bag and the sound of the valves of her purse, which gives her indescribable satisfaction.
"Do you see what is happening? Do you feel how people change dramatically? Look at the pleasure they get," says Armen Kavoukjian.
When asked how he feels when he sees such a reaction from people, he puts his hand on his heart and his eyes fill with tears. "Don't ask, I can't answer," he says and remains silent, and that silence is perhaps much more eloquent than thousands of words.
The first donation of hearing aids in Armenia under this program took place in 2017 with the support of Starkey Cares and “Arabkir” United Children's Charity Foundation. In 2020, it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and the 44-day war. Already in 2021, the project was revived to include the participants of the 44-day war, who had hearing problems due to the shock wave of rocket and mortar explosions.
Haykuhi Kavoukjian says that the appearance of hearing aids repelled boys, and they refused to wear them. But seeing the new devices—small, black in color, specially made for people with dark hair—they agreed to wear them and began to recommend them to their comrades-in-arms. Haykuhi Kavukchyan says that the most exciting thing for them was working with servicemen.
"During work, we were opening the windows to let in fresh air, and the birds were chirping beyond the windows. After the installation of the device, the boys said that they could hear the chirping of birds, and we all started to cry," says Haykuhi Kavoukjian.
Today, this humanitarian project continues in Armenia, for the sake of which the Kavoukjians have traveled a long and difficult path. But everything is fully compensated when every time a person who gets a hearing aid says that he starts a new life from this day on.
This year the initiative will continue until Saturday. With the support of this initiative's partner in Armenian, the “Arabkir” United Children's Charity Foundation, professional doctors, otolaryngologists, audiologists, and audiometrists of the "Arabkir" Medical Complex have joined the project. By the end of this year's mission, the total number of project beneficiaries is expected exceed 6,000.