Project Lead(s): Gunnar Grass
An estimated 642 million people suffer from hearing loss globally.
Hearing loss is associated with reduced educational attainment, job performance and earning power and can also lead, through social isolation, to mental health problems.
Yet only about 1% of the population in the developing world uses a hearing aid.
A pilot project was implemented in Jordan using self-fitting, inexpensive hearing aids manufactured for the specific needs of World Wide Hearing (WWH).
The project tested whether community hearing auditory technicians (audio-techs) could be trained within a five-week period to provide hearing tests, fittings and referrals.
WWH successfully trained five Audio-Techs, who were local rural women, to screen 102 people using a tablet app that WWH developed to record and transmit patient data.
In total, WWH fitted 33 people with hearing aids, referred 16 people to audiologists/ENT specialists and sold 43 hearing aids.
WWH found that 100% of the 21 clients surveyed experienced a positive change in feelings of isolation and depression after they received their hearing aids.
Based on this work, WWH estimated that audio-techs need less than 60 minutes to fit one patient with a hearing aid. Further work is needed to determine price points, further cost reductions and sustainability of the model in different contexts.
The project received follow-on funding from Grand Challenges Canada of $1 million to improve access to affordable hearing aids for 2,240 individuals in Guatemala and Kenya by 2017, by scaling up its model.
In parallel, WWH is conducting the world’s first research study on the positive impacts of hearing aids on people with hearing loss in low- and middle-income countries.
WWH seeks to demonstrate a relationship between hearing loss and poverty, mental health and education.