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media release

Hear the World Publishes 2010 Activity Report

Staefa, Switzerland, January 18, 2011

In 2010, the Hear the World Foundation, which was founded in 2006 by the Swiss hearing instrument manufacturer Phonak, lent its support to ten projects for people with hearing loss all over the world. Its particular focus was on enabling children to regain their sense of hearing. The Foundation’s contribution of more than $200,000 has helped provide hearing instruments and financial support to projects in Switzerland as well as in developing countries.

16 percent of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss and it is estimated that as many as 1.1 billion people may be affected by this by 2015. One in every ten (36 million) Americans has hearing loss. As a result, the Hear the World Foundation was established by Phonak in 2006 to promote equal opportunities and a better quality of life for people suffering from hearing loss all over the world. Particularly, the Foundation promotes projects set up in support of children with hearing loss to enable them to develop at the appropriate rate for their age. Hundreds of children and adults in all have enjoyed the benefits of the support provided by the Hear the World Foundation over the past year. The foundation donated hearing instruments to a total of ten projects and offered a total of $202,233 in financial aid.

Hearing loss: an existential issue in developing countries

In developing countries in particular, hearing loss presents a critical problem, and if it continues to go untreated, the consequences are serious: for adults, this means ostracism from the working world, while children without a good sense of hearing experience difficulties in learning to speak as well as deficiencies in age-related development.

“Hearing instruments not only enable these children to communicate and integrate into society, they also help improve their ability to follow what they are being taught and make the most of their full learning potential. The aim of our commitment is to help give children affected by hearing loss, especially those in developing countries, the chance to have a worthwhile future,” says Dr. Valentin Chapero, President of the Hear the World Foundation and CEO of Phonak.

More than half of all cases of hearing loss in children could be avoided. In Africa, for example, quinine is often used as a fever-reducing medication for treating malaria, but incorrect dosages of this drug can cause damage to hearing. One of the projects supported by the Hear the World Foundation in 2010 was a Canadian initiative that imparts knowledge and provides practical experience to Ugandan physicians to help them diagnose and treat hearing loss – hearing loss which, in many cases, has been caused by the improper use of quinine. In Uganda, there are currently only 12 ENT specialists available for a population of almost 30 million people, four to eleven percent of whom suffer from hearing loss. More information about this project can be found on page 20 of the Activity Report.

Sustainability is key

In selecting projects to support, the Hear the World Foundation places a strong emphasis on sustainability. This means, for example, that as well as providing hearing instruments, fittings of these devices, regular follow-up checks by audiologists or medical specialists and a continuous supply of batteries must also be guaranteed. For children in particular, supplementary measures such as speech therapy to ensure speech development at an age-appropriate rate are also often necessary. As part of the “52 Children” project, which was set up in 2010, the Hear the World Foundation selects 52 disadvantaged children per year from all over the world and offers them the chance to improve their hearing. Last summer, a four-year-old boy from Iraq was given specialist assessments, as well as hearing instruments, at the Children’s Hospital Zurich. His follow-up care in Iraq is organized by a local Phonak representative. It is thanks to this support that the boy is now able to learn, as people who cannot hear or have very poor hearing cannot develop this ability to its optimum extent. More information about this project can be found on page 10 of the Activity Report. 

Project submissions

The Hear the World Foundation accepts submissions of projects that deal with the issue of hearing loss, contribute toward its prevention, work to dispel the stigma of hearing loss or offer concrete support to people affected and their families. The submission period for 2011 is open until January 31, 2011. Further details are available here.

Download the Activity Report