Fil-Canadian speech pathologist makes Filipino-themed hearing aids to raise funds

August 12, 2021 - 5:05 PM
Catriona Gray wearing her iconic earcuff
Catriona Gray, Miss Universe Philippines 2018, is crowned Miss Universe at the IMPACT Arena in Bangkok, Thailand. (Miss Universe/Patrick Prather)

A Filipina-Canadian with hearing loss makes and sells Filipino-themed hearing aids to raise money for people who cannot afford hearing aids. 

Ruzzelle Gasmen, a speech pathologist in Vancouver, said it is “very isolating” to live without hearing aids. 

“I hear words, but sometimes they don’t make sense because some of the sounds are missing,” Gasmen said in an interview with CBC. 

For almost six years, Gasmen did not use hearing aids, saying they are expensive and not covered under the British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan, a state-backed health insurance. 

Filipino pride 

One of Gasmen’s most popular designs was inspired by Catriona Gray’s ear cuff made after the Philippine flag during the Miss Universe pageant in 2018.

“I really wanted it but I knew it wouldn’t work well with the hearing aid, because the metal would clink and it would impact my hearing,” she said.

“So I just decided to make one for myself, for my hearing aid,” she added.

Luckily, Catriona noticed her custom-made hearing aid accessory last Aug. 3.

Gasmen also designed an ear cuff based on the wing of an “aswang,” a supernatural creature from Filipino folklore.

Gasmen knows what it feels to be put in the same situation, hence this was her way to give back and help children and adults in need of hearing aids.

“It’s very therapeutic for me. It allows me to embrace my heritage and culture in a way that I never really did before growing up,” she said.

About 688,000 adults in British Columbia are hearing impaired, according to Christopher Sutton, CEO of the Wavefront Centre.

This urged Gusmen to donate her sales proceeds to the charity, which provides support and services for the deaf and hearing impaired.