Hearing loss is a big problem
According to the World Health Organization, 642 million people in the world suffer from hearing loss. Of these, 181 million are children. 278 million people suffer from hearing loss so disabling that activities most people take for granted, like having a conversation, are impossible for them without a hearing aid.
Unfortunately, 80% of people with hearing loss live in low and middle income countries, where hearing care remains inaccessible because of the high cost of hearing aids, insufficient treatment services, and the lack of trained professionals to fit hearing aids. As a result, fewer than 1 in 40 people in the developing world who need a hearing aid have access to one.
Hearing loss has serious consequences
Hearing-impaired children born in countries with very few available disability services are unlikely to attend school. Those who do attend school struggle to hear their teachers and often fail to get good grades. They grow up without a proper education and have difficulty finding work as adults. Relative to their peers they are at an enormous disadvantage as they try to make a life for themselves.
People who suffer from hearing loss often have trouble communicating and become isolated from their communities. They have trouble fitting in and are often mistreated. As a result of this discrimination, many suffer from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
In certain countries, stigmas against hearing loss are so extreme that they can lead to abuse. Where disabilities are considered a form of punishment from God, hearing-impaired children are viewed by their parents as a source of shame and are hidden out of sight. They are not allowed to participate in the world around them.
Lastly, untreated hearing loss represents an enormous burden for society. The cost of hearing loss is estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars each year in decreased productivity, unrealized tax revenue, and expensive disability services. For developing countries, this financial strain represents yet another obstacle to rising out of poverty.
Better hearing has a big impact
Thankfully, there is a solution. 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.