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Media release

Stepping into a new future with the first cochlear implant donation

Staefa, Switzerland, March 16, 2017

Finally able to hear: this dream came true for three disadvantaged children in Panama when their cochlear implants (CI) were successfully activated. They are the first to be provided with hearing implants in the ten-year history of the Hear the World Foundation. This is a significant milestone for the foundation and its local project partner FUNPROI as with CIs, the gift of hearing can even be given to people who do not benefit from even the most powerful hearing aids. Donating cochlear implants is a challenge because it involves surgery and requires closely monitored care before and after activation. 

At activation, around six weeks after the operation emotions were high: the eyes of Ivana (3), Jozmar (4), and Alejandro (4) started to light up. You can see in their eyes that something wonderful and fundamental has changed in their lives – they can hear properly for the first time. It was a big day for the three children from Panama, who all come from disadvantaged families.: They stepped into a new world in which they can hear and therefore have the opportunity to learn to speak, to go to school, and to lead an independent life. These successful activations mark a milestone for the Hear the World Foundation and the local non-profit organization Fundación Pro Integración (FUNPROI), which the Swiss foundation has been supporting with funding, hearing aids, and expertise since 2013. 

“Donating cochlear implants allows us to give the gift of hearing to those children who cannot benefit from even the most powerful hearing aids and therefore offer them  better opportunities for the future,” says Sarah Kreienbuehl, Group Vice President of Corporate HRM and Corporate Communications at Sonova and a member of the Hear the World Foundation Board. “Donating the first cochlear implants is an important step for the Hear the World Foundation, and we hope we can bring this kind of support to projects all over the world, and help many more children on their way to a better life.”

Transfer knowledge - ensure sustainability

The Hear the World foundation understands that just donating cochlear implants is not enough. Professional follow-up care is an equally important part of Hear the World’s engagement and support. The experts from Sonova’s subsidiary Advanced Bionics also play a major role in ongoing care. They support the project locally, control the activation of the CIs, and pass on their expertise to the FUNPROI audiologists so the children will continue to receive follow-up care in future. Over the following two to three years , the children will receive regular audiological monitoring of the cochlear implants as well as speech training three times a week to compensate for their current speech deficiencies and to prepare them for school. Their parents are trained in how to handle CIs and also receive tips on playful ways to support their children in their speech training at home. With all of these measures, the Hear the World Foundation not only enables children to hear, but also ensures sustainable all-round audiological care in accordance with international standards.

What is a cochlear implant (CI)?

A CI is an electronic hearing prosthesis that allows people with profound hearing loss to hear again or even for the first time. Cochlear implants are made up of two components: the implant, which is placed under the scalp during surgery, and the speech processor with a transmitter coil, which is worn on the back on the head.

More information about cochlear implants
Further information about the project incl. project video

Link to the video on Youtube

Images to download in ready-to-print resolution:

For the first time Alejandro can hear his mothers voice.

Also for Jozmar the activation was a success. For the first time in his life he hears what is happening around him.

Ivana feels a bit intimidated by the first sounds she is able to hear after the successful activation.

Virginia de Alvarado, president of Fundación Pro Integración (FUNPROI) welcomes the parents, the children and all supporters on the day of the activation.

The Hear the World advisory board member Prof. Dr. Richard Seewald is very satisfied about the successful activations.

The parents of the CI recipients learn all about the hearing implants.

CI expert Carina from Advanced Bionics shows the parents how to use the cochlear implants.

CI expert Carina from Advanced Bionics shows the FUNPROI staff how to use the fitting software.