New global Alliance brings hearing care to people in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh

Vienna / Innsbruck, 16 March 2022:  Following World Hearing Day, a new global project has been created to provide access to new ear and hearing care services for thousands of people living with undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss.


Recent data from the World Health Organization shows that 20% of the world’s population is living with hearing loss - a staggering 80% of which live in middle- and low-income countries.  To help tackle this, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, and a global manufacturer of hearing implants, MED-EL, have brought together an international network of more than 120 organizations and experts in the field of education, global health and hearing care to form the Hearing Healthcare Alliance.


The Alliance will implement a five-year program, part funded by the ADA and managed by MED-EL, to improve the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of people with hearing loss in 14 developing and emerging countries around the world. This includes vital ear and hearing care for people across Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, where 20.8 million people - almost 10% of the total population - are living with hearing loss.  Within the region, disabling hearing loss is found in 2.4% of children who require hearing assessment and treatment.


A lifetime of hearing


People with hearing loss may wait a decade before seeking help. Factors such as limited access to qualified hearing healthcare professionals and hearing technologies, limited funding, stigma, and low awareness of the impact of hearing loss are among the reasons why untreated hearing loss is all too common.


Working with local communities in Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh as well as East and West Africa, and Pakistan, MED-EL’s Hearing Healthcare Alliance will create new ear and hearing care infrastructures and services, introduce new qualifications for hearing and healthcare professionals, and raise awareness of hearing loss.  Within three years, nearly 100,000 people with undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss will directly benefit from the expertise of the Alliance. 


"Hearing loss is on the rise, which is why people of all ages need access to quality hearing care and treatment regardless of where they live. Our focus has always been to overcome hearing loss as a barrier for communication and quality of life, which is why through our strategic partnership with the Austrian Development Agency and our partners we’re able to go beyond our core business to help create sustainable hearing healthcare services. Applying our knowledge and expertise as innovators in hearing technology we can continue to positively impact the lives of people living with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss around the world.“ says Dr Ingeborg Hochmair, CEO of MED-EL


Nearly 60% of hearing loss in children is due to avoidable causes


With a focus on hearing care from birth to old age, the Hearing HealthCare Alliance will equip local providers with the skills and equipment needed to ensure that almost 4,000 babies and children in Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh will receive vital (new-born) hearing screening in the first three years.  The tests are a quick and painless important first stage in identifying hearing loss early, before deciding the best treatment option such as medication, hearing aids or cochlear implants.  The skills and resources needed for hearing screenings will also remain in the health centres to ensure that future generations are safely screened for hearing loss and ear disease.


Currently, nearly 93% of low-income countries have less than one audiologist per one million people.  Through the Hearing Healthcare Alliance over 650 healthcare professionals will be able to access hearing care workshops or undertake new undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in hearing sciences, and audiology and speech language pathology, so that people with hearing loss can receive continued care for years to come.


In Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh the program will provide postgraduate qualifications for 20 healthcare professionals, as well as 182 undergraduate opportunities and a series of special hearing healthcare workshops that will train an additional 500 carers and healthcare professionals.


Dr. Friedrich Stift, Managing Director of ADA, “Our latest partnership with MED-EL builds on the experience gained through our award-winning hearing care initiative in Côte d'Ivoire and Bangladesh, which focused on new-born hearing screening and professional education.  Strategic partnerships and experiences like these are central to bringing about sustainable and systemic change that benefits local communities and makes a measurable contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and WHO resolutions on hearing care.”


Hybrider Projektlaunch Teilnehmer, u.a. CEO Dr. Ingeborg Hochmair sowie Dr. Gunter Schall, ADA sowie internationalen Projektpartner
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