Durango audiologist Chandace Jeep has been nominated for an award thanks to her work to help establish a newborn hearing screening program in Zambia.
Jeep is being considered for a 2023 Oticon Focus on People Award.
Voting for the award is open until Dec. 8. Oticon is a hearing aid manufacturer based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Zambia, a country in southern Africa, has a population of around 17 million people. Jeep, who grew up in Durango and has five generations of family who have lived in the city, will visit Zambia in March 2024 to start the program.
“I had the opportunity to go to Zambia three different times to do audiology humanitarian work with Hearing the Call,” Jeep said. “When we were there, each of the times, we were out in different areas in rural Zambia: diagnosing, treating and fitting hearing aids on 7-year-olds and people who had no language or access to sign language, or speech.”
At Animas Valley Audiology, Jeep sees babies from Durango and Cortez who do not pass their hearing screenings when they are born. She said that students in Zambia don’t have access to audiological care because the country does not have access to modifications for people with hearing impairments.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the global population) live with hearing loss.
“It just kind of started that passion of connecting my now newfound love for Zambia with pediatrics and being able to figure out ways that we could start this newborn hearing screening program over there,” Jeep said.
Jeep said there is only one audiologist in the entire country, and while there are hospitals in larger cities like Lusaka, there are still many small villages that conduct home births.
The Oticon Focus on People Awards recognize outstanding people who are helping show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in their families, communities or the world.
Jeep was listed as one of three candidates for the Heroic Hearing Care Professionals category.
While the awards are definitely not the sole purpose for Jeep’s career passion, she said she’s humbled to be recognized for her work in this manner.
“For me, it would really be a jumping off point with the Zambian program. You know, it's not really about the recognition. I love what I do. And that, for me, is fulfilling enough,” Jeep said. “It's really about getting to spur this program even further and actually have some of the donation that they put toward the nonprofit of our choice, as well as prize money.”
Jeep said winning the award could help extend the program into neighboring countries that also need audiologists. She said her work in Zambia and with the Colorado nonprofit Hearing the Call has been a quiet and humble project.
“The more support that we can get, the better it is for the community, not just here, but also there,” she said.
Even in Durango, she said it’s been interesting to watch the different audiology practices grow.
When Jeep started Animas Valley Audiology in 2008, it was a very small practice. However, it became a game-changer because it’s the only practice in the area that sees newborns.
“Typically, that would be done like at a hospital or a different kind of clinic,” she said.
Those interested in voting can do so by visiting the Oticon website.