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The Coalition for Global Hearing Health Uses Technology to Lend a Hand

Clark, Jackie L. PhD; Saunders, James E. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000414405.03578.6c

Dr. Clark is a clinical associate professor of audiology at the University of Texas, Dallas, and a research scholar at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Dr. Saunders is an associate professor of otolaryngology at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical School, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.

Approximately 278 million people (5%) worldwide have significant hearing loss, with the majority living in low-income areas. Hearing loss and deafness, however, often fall to the bottom of the healthcare list in many countries because they are not considered life-threatening despite the devastating effects on a person's education and well-being.



A lack of resources in many instances prevents people from seeking help. Transportation and communication technologies make previously inaccessible regions reachable and humanitarian help possible. The Coalition for Global Hearing Health, though still in its infancy, has provided critical opportunities for hearing healthcare professionals to meet the challenges audiologists face.

CGHH took root in 2008, following a discussion between the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation's Humanitarian Efforts Committee and the International Society of Audiology's Humanitarian Committee. The initial discussion focused on the need to maximize resources and efforts in humanitarian work among otolaryngologists, audiologists, deaf educators, speech pathologists, and deaf patients and their families.

A multidisciplinary group was formed in one year's time, and met at Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington, DC. The group comprised representatives from AAO-HNSF, ISA, Hearing International, the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, AG Bell, Partners for a Greater Voice, World Wide Hearing, World Health Organization, and Cochlear Americas, and they unanimously agreed that hearing healthcare needed a coalition.

CGHH's inaugural meeting in June 2010 was hosted by AAO-HNSF and sponsored in part by ISA, NCHAM, and Cochlear Americas. Twenty international attendees represented 14 countries, in addition to attendees from the United States. Attendee survey responses provided clear direction for the group, with five activities considered urgent. (Figure.)



  • Influence policy on global levels through WHO, the United Nations, and the Global Health Council.
  • Provide a professional network for hearing healthcare providers and families, primarily through hosting annual meetings for professionals and promoting local and regional meetings for families. Influence and advocate hearing healthcare policy at a national and global level.
  • Produce and disseminate specific information regarding global hearing healthcare issues.
  • Create Internet-based training and education programs for hearing healthcare providers and families in the developing world.
  • Encourage and promote best practices, ethical conduct, and cultural sensitivity for providers of services who are outside their own country.

The attendees discussed technology for the coalition to use, as well as methods for engaging the media. Encouraging local professionals to become involved in humanitarian programs was also suggested. Not only did attendees unanimously express the need for CGHH, they also wanted regular conferences to debate ongoing worldwide priorities.

The House Research Institute hosted the second conference in Los Angeles with AAO-HNS and ISA as sponsors Sept. 8-9, 2011. Attendees arrived ready to enter into a dialogue to determine global actions. Small workgroups focused on harnessing technology, establishing best practices and standards of care, advocacy and media for better hearing healthcare, increasing the workforce through quality training, and empowering families and affected individuals, in addition to plenary presentations by notable speakers. Many topics were generated by participants’ insightful suggestions. (Table.) CGHH created a website and a Facebook page to offer updates and news, and the website includes conference content, topical information and guidelines, and a forum for exchanging information. (See FastLinks.)



CGHH was officially incorporated in February, and has applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to ensure that revenue goes toward the organization's expansion and preservation. Plans are in place for a third CGHH conference, which will be hosted by EduPlex in Pretoria, South Africa, May 30 to June 1. Postconference workshops will be offered on the third day.

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