For 85 percent of the world, hearing is a quality of life that is often taken for granted while the other 15 percent of the population envisions a future limited by disability. Every year, 665,000 children are born with hearing deficiencies, and those living in low-income countries are unable to receive the adequate treatment needed to aid hearing loss.
Hear the World was established in 2006 by Sonova. Its mission? Providing equal opportunities for individuals with hearing impairment. As 2016 comes to a close, the foundation marks its 10 year anniversary and has successfully donated over 100,000 hearing aids and has “supported 24 projects in 19 countries.”
One of Hear the World’s campaigns to raise money is their annual calendar featuring celebrities posing with one hand behind their ear as a symbol representing hearing awareness. The foundation has been recognized by the Guinness World Records for “the world’s largest photographic awareness campaign with 53 celebrity ambassadors.” The newly released 2017 Hear the World calendar, which sells for $40 with all proceeds benefiting the foundation, features celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Jake Bugg and Linda Evangelista.
Though hearing loss is a global issue, impoverished countries experience it as more of a burden, especially children. According to research, “60 percent of childhood hearing loss is preventable” and yet, with the lack of resources in low-income countries, children are left untreated and their learning abilities are hindered. In countries such as Cambodia, hearing loss would be preventable without issues such as “incorrect treatment of middle ear infections, malaria drug overdose or acoustic trauma caused by landlines.” Such preventable situations drive the Hear the World Foundation to develop programs that equip countries with financial and audiological resources to help relieve the effects of hearing loss.
In 2015, Hear the World partnered with photographer Philipp Rathmer to implement a project in Malawi, Africa that allowed young people affected by hearing impairments to photograph their favorite sounds since receiving hearing aids. Some of the youth favored the sounds of local animals while others appreciated sounds of the manual labor that drives their local economy. Fifteen-year-old Pauline Mwanja says, “I like the sound of sewing machines because I know something nice will come out of it.” Because of Hear the World’s efforts toward providing hearing health awareness, the youth of Malawi have found joy in sound again just like Masautso Mwale who simply says, “I like to hear people call my name.” Not only has rehabilitated hearing brought joy to the Malawi people but they also have a newfound sense of appreciation for sounds which now hold a deeper significance.
By raising awareness about hearing disabilities that are prevalent in low-income countries, individuals living with hearing loss, especially children, are offered a better future with necessary resources. By purchasing the 2017 Hear the World calendar as a gift this holiday season for family and friends, it will be a gift to those in need, as well!
– Amy Williams