Hilton Head Hearing: Mission Accomplished
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Photography by Anne
It seems that the doctor who helps others hear better actually hears best with his heart. A man who believes in the power of prayer, audiologist Dr. Michael Szynski is a very busy man, balancing the demands of an active professional practice and family life, all while answering the call he hears in his heart to use his skills and resources to help others around the world.
A Lowcountry resident since 2001, Szynski moved from Indiana to the area, having purchased Hilton Head Hearing Services. This Doctor of Audiology brought with him an impressive résumé and, most importantly, a great deal of experience, having treated over 42,000 patients, including over 9,000 newborns and toddlers. It is from this professional foundation that Szynski has built a life based on service to others.
For a man who treats and heals the human ear to improve one’s hearing, it is rather ironic that the strongest voice he hears and wants to share with the world comes through his heart. Szynski knows that the word of Christ can change lives. He has seen it firsthand on the five mission trips he has taken since June 2010 and is looking forward to another in 2012.
Veritably jumping in his chair with enthusiasm, Szynski begins telling tales of his time at New Day Foster Home outside of Beijing in Qingyundian Township, China. A home for orphans with special needs, this is a place where the smallest castoffs of society are taken in and healed, Szynski believes, as much through medical attention as through prayer and love.
Not receptive to Christian beliefs, the Chinese government requires an agreement from volunteers entering the country. “When we’re there, we have to sign a document that says we will not proselytize,” Szynski explained, which isn’t much of a hardship from his perspective. “What I found out about all of these trips is that it’s not what comes out of my mouth that matters. Christians are famous for proselytizing and slapping folks upside the head with scripture. It doesn’t work like that. The most important thing that stands out is your actions. That’s what the light of Christ is; is your life reflective of the One you follow?”
Szynski’s hope is that through his actions, conversations will be generated that will lead to opportunities to share the story of Christ. He has made two trips to New Day Foster Home, the first in June of 2010 with a group from Savannah Christian Church and the second on his own in March 2011. He explains that until you have established connections, it is best to go as part of an organized group with experienced leaders.
During his visits Szynski has worn many hats, including doctor, teacher, missionary, guide, and laborer. “The first trip, I found a large number of children with ears that were totally occluded with wax and had some hearing loss. I tested all of the kids’ hearing, donated equipment, taught nurses how to test hearing and how to clean ears, and followed up by sending tools to clean ears after I got home. The second trip, I spent the whole week just cleaning ears.”
It was after the business of medicine ended each day that Szynski found opportunities to share his message through other acts of service. The foster home also runs a for-profit oral English school that helps support the home. It was here that Szynski volunteered in the evenings and built relationships with many non-believers who had lots of questions. According to Szynski some of these individuals stay in touch via the Internet and, with somewhat less governmental oversight, can have more open discussions about faith and religion.
Szynski has found his way to two other continents on his journey and will add a third this summer. On these trips, his contributions were as a lay traveler and physical laborer. In September of 2010 he joined H.E.L.P. Ministries on a trip to Egbe, Nigeria in Central Africa. There was a much greater degree of hardship on this trip, Szynski said. Staying in huts, visiting an AIDS clinic, and hearing stories filled with terror, he said they also heard amazing tales of faith. One young man had endured imprisonment, torture and the loss of his wife, and he was still a disciple of Christ.
“To do these trips keeps me grounded, Szynski said. “I know I’m really nobody in the big scheme of things. I can make a difference.”
In June 2011 and 2012, Szynski went with Savannah Christian Church, this time to La Curia and San Jose, Ecuador, respectively. Again as a laborer, Szynski earned the nickname “Mule” because of the work he did to help build a home and complete projects that improved the quality of life for individuals in these poverty-stricken communities, all while sharing his faith by example. Szynski will be leaving for Poland later this summer. “Other places have been about outreach and poverty. Poland will be more about outreach—more like serving in the United States,” he said. Szynski sees this as a particularly unique trip for him as he will be visiting the homeland of his ancestors.
For a man who is willing to show up with his passport and go anywhere to serve, he is also the consummate professional who serves his patients with the most cutting-edge technology and treatment in the audiology world. With as much enthusiasm as he shows for his outreach work, Szynski comments on what is happening in his profession. “Technology is insane,” he said. “It is unbelievable what we are able to do.”
Szynski estimates that only five to ten percent of all adult hearing loss can be treated medically, meaning that medicine or surgery is not the answer for the majority of patients who have nerve damage—the most common cause or hearing loss. This includes damage related to the aging process and loud noise generated by anything from music to fireworks to gunfire. The “insane” technology Szynski refers to is a family of hearing aids that communicate wirelessly with each other and with other technology in the home. Like laptop computers, these CLEAR aids by Widex have four 32-bit processing chips creating connectivity to telephones, MP3 players, and televisions with the touch of a special remote control. The sound goes directly into the aid, meaning it is clearer for the user, easier to adjust, and more family-friendly for those in the house who have had to endure excessively loud volume settings.
As a busy man living a life that requires a great deal of balance, it is truly listening that is the connective tissue of this story. Whether listening to his patients at Hilton
Head Hearing Services and fitting their needs with the best of the profession, listening to those he touches through his outreach trips, or most importantly listening to his heart as it tells him where he is needed, Szynski has his ear to the ground and is keeping his passport and pack at the ready for his next assignment.
Hilton Head Hearing Services, Inc. is located at 23 Main Street, Suite 101-A, Hilton Head Island and 55B Sheridan Park Circle, Bluffton. For more information, call (843) 681-6070 or visit their website at hiltonheadhearing.com.