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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

UNGA Highlights Global Ear and Hearing Health

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Hearing health took center stage at the high-level United Nations General Assembly panel on "Ear Care and Hearing Health"​ last September 14, with keynote speaker former U.S. President Bill Clinton. 

Organized by the International Federation for Peace and Sustainable Development (IFPSD) and the Permanent Mission of Guatemala to the U.N., the meeting highlighted the global impact of hearing impairment, as well as the importance of hearing health in promoting peace and sustainability, especially in developing nations.

"It is important to know that children in developing countries are seven times more likely to experience hearing loss because of avoidable conditions that routine checkup and treatment can take care of in countries with comprehensive health care system," said Clinton.

William F. Austin, the founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which has worked with the Clinton Global Initiative on hearing health projects, was the other keynote speaker and named the first Goodwill Global Ambassador for Ear and Hearing.

In the first panel, the keynote speakers and fellow panelist tackled the need for increased support and funding ear and hearing health.

Hearing "helps us understand each other and creates more avenues for peace and development," said Sandra Granger, first lady of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, who was also part of the panel. "It is not only hearing as a sense but also the connection with the rest of the world that we all need and desire."

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"If you think about it, this is a problem of manageable cause with a proven delivery system that has a community-based solution to promote hearing health and to maintain the supply chain," Clinton said.

"If we get enough people trained then we can feed that system with instruments needed to satisfy the broader problem," Austin noted on developing solutions.

The second panel, which focused on the global status of ear and hearing health, was moderated by Barbara Bush, CEO and co-founder of the Global Health Corps.

"We can work as hard as we want to every single day on solving health issues, but if someone can't access the health care system because they can't hear, that's not a 'nice' to have--that's a 'must' to have," shared Bush.

In this panel, Charlotte Chiong, MD of the University of the Philippines recapped the recently approved World Health Assembly resolution that underscored the need to integrate ear and hearing health within primary health care. The resolution also called for improved training of medical professionals, informed government policies, implementation of hearing screenings, and enhanced access to cost-effective hearing services and devices.

"Everybody should think of hearing as a right to life," said Chiong. "Nobody gets left behind."