World Wide Hearing designs and runs last-mile hearing aid distribution programs to ensure that children have access to the critical hearing care they need.
We are a catalyst organization that innovates new ways to deliver hearing aids and hearing care; we seek to increase both accessibility and affordability of hearing care. World Wide Hearing partners with and supports locally based organizations with similar goals and approaches to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions.
These programs are structured around three main activities:
1) Affordability – we reduce the cost of provision of hearing aids by up to 90% thanks to: a) preferential agreements with manufacturers who believe in our cause, and b) low-cost mobile technologies.
2) Delivery – we provide last-mile distribution of hearing aids by training local, primarily female technicians. We empower our technicians through ongoing training and also develop tech platforms to facilitate their work.
3) Quality Care – we provide high-quality, digital hearing aids and long-lasting follow-up care through our local technicians. We are family-focused and take a holistic, community-based approach.
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. The kit 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 Ear Nose Throat doctor 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 train them 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.
World Wide Hearing is working with universities and accredited institutions to teach the concepts, techniques, and identified best practices to as many people as possible.
Hearing Aid Provision
Our goal is to provide hearing aids to 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.
Remote Audiology Systems
The development of remote audiology systems is our latest initiative to address the lack of access to hearing care for children with hearing loss in remote communities. We are developing an open-access platform to empower technicians to provide diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for hearing loss. Field workers and technicians will be able to capture data on patients and refer complex cases to specialists living in-country or abroad.
We focus on outcomes: 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.
We are always striving to create new tools to better address hearing loss in the developing world. By working with technology companies and diagnostic device manufacturers, we are developing better audiology solutions and cloud-based data platforms for storing and managing patient records.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is supportive of World Wide Hearing’s initiative to develop the official data collection app for the WHO’s revised hearing loss prevalence study protocol.
Do you only help children with hearing loss or do you also work with adults?
We primarily focus our programs on children and youth with hearing loss but we also serve low-income adults. Our goal is to increase access for everyone.
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 Indigenous 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 $30,000 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.