Our Solution

A Global Approach to a Global Problem

1.3 billion people in the world suffer from hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, of these, 360 million suffer from hearing loss so disabling that actions most people take for granted, like having a conversation, are impossible for them without a hearing aid. The majority live in developing countries and almost none have access to hearing aids or services. The cost of hearing care is simply unaffordable and there are too few audiologists working in poor countries to provide treatment for everyone.

A Multi-Faceted Solution 

In response to this immense global need, we’ve developed several programs to rapidly test children for hearing loss and train technicians to address hearing loss in their communities. We conduct studies to better understand the impact of hearing loss and hearing care on a person’s life and develop tools to collect and share data about hearing loss with governments, researchers, and NGOs. We also distribute diagnostic equipment and low-cost hearing aids in places where they are unaffordable. Finally, we provide support to other organizations working to provide hearing care around the world. These programs exist in parallel to, and with the assistance of, existing professional hearing care and audiology services. 

We see ourselves as a catalyst organization that transforms the way hearing care is delivered by making it more affordable, accessible, and modern. World Wide Hearing partners with and funds organizations with similar goals and approaches.

Detecting Hearing Loss 

We work with different manufacturers to put together a kit of mobile diagnostic devices, including portable audiometers and solar-powered otoscopes. This kit allows us to operate without traditional hospital equipment, greatly reducing the cost of administering a hearing test while still providing accurate results. It fits into a backpack, allowing us to travel and test for hearing loss in remote areas of developing countries where no treatment facilities exist. A World Wide Hearing technician can test a child’s hearing in under 5 minutes. In this way, an entire school can be tested in a single day by a small team.

When we detect a case of hearing loss, we inform parents and teachers so that they can begin adapting to the child’s educational needs, providing support, and protecting his or her hearing from further deterioration. When possible, we provide primary care services that may include removing impacted ear wax or fitting a hearing aid. In some cases, we refer children with hearing loss to a nearby ENT or audiology clinic with whom we have a partnership so that they can receive treatment for ear infections, trauma, or very severe hearing impairment.

Training Local Audio-Technicians 

We train local people to become audio-technicians to expand our reach in the communities where we work. We establish accreditation centers where they undergo a 5-week course that teaches them how to identify ear problems, test for hearing loss, and correctly fit and program a hearing aid. Once they’ve completed their training, they receive their equipment from World Wide Hearing and begin helping people hear in villages, schools, and even clinics. 

After five years of running training programs, we have begun making our educational resources available to a larger public by partnering with universities to integrate them into their curricula. We are also developing university-accredited, open access e-learning courses in audiometry. Our goal is to teach these concepts and techniques to as many people as possible.

Hearing Aid Provision 

Our goal is to provide hearing aids people in underserved communities without sacrificing on quality. We work with suppliers to source high-grade, digital hearing aids at very low cost, placing them within the reach of as many people as possible. Providing children with hearing aids allows them to attend school, find work, and participate in their communities, contributing to their well-being while lifting them out of poverty. 

Evidence-Based Research

We conduct research about the impact of hearing loss and hearing care that focuses specifically on the lives of people in lower-and-middle income countries. Because hearing affects every aspect of a person’s wellbeing, we study its influence on mental health, poverty, and quality of life. While these issues have been examined in wealthy countries, World Wide Hearing is the first organization to focus exclusively on the parts of the world that are home to 80% of all hearing loss cases. Our conclusions allow us to persuasively make the case for the importance of hearing care to governments and charitable foundations. You can read the results of our 2016 impact study in Guatemala here.

Developing Technology 

We are always striving to create new tools to better address hearing loss in the developing world. To accomplish that, we team up with technology companies to develop better audiology solutions. Recently, we partnered with a diagnostic device manufacturer to develop a cloud-based data portal for storing and managing patient records. Our status as a leader in hearing care innovation has been recognized by the World Health Organization, which has selected World Wide Hearing to develop the official data collection app for its upcoming hearing loss prevalence study protocol.

The Global Hearing Loss Database 

The Global Hearing Loss Database is a cloud-based, open-access repository to collect and analyze different kinds of hearing loss data. Hearing health professionals, NGOs, academia and the private sector all collect disparate hearing data (clinical, psychosocial, economic, prevalence). This data is collected using non-standard formats and is stored locally, with limited or no sharing of information. The goal of this database is to standardize the collection of data between different groups to facilitate sharing and large-scale data analysis. By having a more complete picture of global hearing loss, we will raise awareness of the problems, encourage policy-making, and generate evidence to drive clinical practices. Please visit our prototype web portal at http://www.globalhearingloss.org to see our vision for this project.

 


FAQ:

Do you use refurbished or second-hand hearing aids?
No, we only use new digital hearing aids. We do not use any refurbished or second-hand devices.

Where does your equipment come from?
Our devices are sourced from a number of different manufacturers in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. World Wide Hearing does not manufacture any equipment.

Do you work in developed (wealthy) countries?
Currently, we only work in developing countries where the need is greatest. A notable exception is our work in the Inuit communities of Northern Canada, where hearing loss prevalence rates are very high and there are insufficient resources to address the needs of the population.

Why don’t you provide cochlear implants?
Cochlear implants are extremely expensive. The equipment and procedure often cost in excess of $50,000 USD per individual. Moreover, trained surgeons and modern hospital equipment are required to perform operations. As a result, they are not the ideal solution for helping large numbers of people in developing countries with limited resources.