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Media release

CHF 1.8 mio in support for people with hearing loss

Staefa, Switzerland, May 19, 2016

A world in which everyone has the chance to enjoy good hearing – this is the ambitious goal pursued by the Hear the World Foundation. Sonova established this non-profit organization to help people with hearing loss all over the world who are in need of aid. In the 2015/16 financial year, the Swiss foundation provided over 1.86 million Swiss francs’ worth of support for 23 projects in 18 countries by donating hearing solutions and supplying funding and professional expertise. 

The highlights at a glance

  • A total of CHF 1.86 million in support provided for 23 projects in 18 countries.
  • More than 1,000 hearing aids and wireless microphone systems donated, with professional fittings and follow-up care provided.
  • 510 Sonova employees devoted 610 days to voluntary work or fundraising projects.

Focusing on children with hearing loss

Providing audiological care for children with hearing loss is one area the Hear the World Foundation focuses its attention. For children in low- or middle-income countries , hearing loss has profound implications: it means they are unable to learn to speak and are therefore denied access to a school education leading to fewer prospects for the future. With this in mind, the Hear the World Foundation supports projects across the globe that give children the opportunity to develop at an appropriate rate for their age and reach their full potential. In Armenia, for example, help from Hear the World has made it possible to carry out over 2,000 audiological examinations. Furthermore, the Dominican Republic has seen the opening of a new audiology clinic and the launch of a newborn hearing screening program. Providing high-quality and sustainable care is always a top priority for the Hear the World Foundation. “Our aim is to ensure that children in low-income countries receive the same standard of audiological care as those from higher-earning backgrounds,” explains Lukas Braunschweiler, President of the Hear the World Foundation and CEO of Sonova. “That’s why we make sure our project partners have state-of-the-art hearing aids and the right equipment for fitting them at their disposal.”

Prevention: a key part of the foundation’s work

Another core area of the foundation’s work is prevention. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion young people worldwide put their hearing at risk through their listening habits, while a staggering 60% of all cases of hearing loss in children are avoidable 1. In low- to middle-income countries, the figures are even more alarming: In Cambodia, for example, three out of four instances of hearing loss in children could have been prevented. The most common causes of hearing damage in Cambodia include inadequate treatment of middle ear infections, excessive doses of malaria medication, and trauma due to land mines. The Hear the World Foundation is therefore supporting five clinics that provide treatment for the country’s poorest people, thus ensuring that over 24,000 patients a year receive audiological care. Since the challenges involved in prevention vary from country to country, the foundation tailors its programs accordingly. It also campaigns to promote prevention back home in Switzerland. Last year, for instance, more than 500,000 earplugs were handed out to Swiss concert-goers. The importance of the work carried out by Hear the World is highlighted by the WHO statistics: Around one sixth of adults across the world are affected 2; by hearing loss, and 32 million children experience this condition to a moderate or severe degree. The problem here is not a shortage of audiological solutions, but a lack of resources. Most of those affected live in low- to middle-income countries and often have very limited access – if any – to audiological care. In developing countries, for example, only one in 40 people with hearing loss wears a hearing aid 3.

510 Sonova employees have been getting involved

The voluntary work and fundraising campaigns carried out by Sonova staff form an important part of the foundation’s activities. In the year under review, a total of 510 employees – over 5% of Sonova’s workforce worldwide – devoted 610 days to voluntary work for Hear the World. This was almost double the number who got involved in the previous year. “By volunteering in the field, our employees help to build up the specialist knowledge and expertise needed for diagnosing hearing loss and fitting hearing aids at local level. This enables the Hear the World Foundation to guarantee sustainable audiological care and create jobs locally,” explains Lukas Braunschweiler.

The 10th anniversary of the Hear the World Foundation

The Hear the World Foundation is set to continue providing a comparable level of support for people with hearing loss in the new financial year. In addition to the 16 ongoing projects running for several years, eight new projects have been selected from a large number of applications. In the year in which it celebrates its 10th anniversary, the foundation will also reach a new milestone as it donates the first cochlear implants for children with severe hearing loss in Panama – yet another vital step towards creating a world in which everyone has the chance to enjoy good hearing.

The Hear the World Foundation Activity Report 2015/16

Further information about the foundation and its projects can be found here. We would be happy to send you a printed copy upon request.

1 Source: WHO Childhood Hearing Loss, Act Now, Here is How (2016)
2 Source: WHO, The global burden of disease: 2004 update (2008)
3 Source: WHO Factsheet Number 300 (2012)