Vinton Cerf, PhD, a computer pioneer who is now Google’s vice president and chief Internet evangelist, urges viewers to stop ignoring hearing problems in a Better Hearing Institute (BHI) documentary that began airing on public television affiliate stations in August. Cerf, who has worn hearing aids since the age of 13, is participating in an ongoing campaign by BHI to educate Americans about hearing loss and new technologically sophisticated solutions that are available to address it.

The PBS program, “Spotlight On: Hearing Loss,” was recently made available for showing to 348 public television affiliate stations around the country as part of the popular “Spotlight On” series with a successful 16 year history on National Public Television. The hearing loss segment is a 9.5-minute program guaranteed a minimum of 500 airings to at least 3 million public television viewers. It conveys the negative consequences of untreated hearing loss and shows viewers what they can do about it. The mini-documentary was made possible by a special grant from Sonion, Minnetonka, Minn.

“I have spent much of my life thinking about the potential of communications technology to transform people’s lives,” Cerf says in the documentary. “Now I’m equally excited about new digital technology that is transforming the lives of people with hearing problems.”

Known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” when he was a professor at Stanford University in the early 1970s, Cerf co-designed the protocols and architecture that now make it possible to communicate through cyberspace. He has indicated that, without hearing aids, he would not have been able to function as productively as he did throughout his long and successful career.

“We hope the Public Television ‘Spotlight On’ program will be a wake-up call to the 25 million Americans who know they have hearing problems but aren’t doing anything about it,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s executive director. “As a result, they often lose income on the job, have psychological problems, and find that intimate relationships and family life are disrupted.”

To help overcome the widespread resistance to dealing with hearing loss, as well as misinformation about the hearing health care process in America, the program explains the value of hearing, shows viewers what happens when they visit a hearing professional, and how modern digital hearing aids are fitted and then manufactured.

“The use of Dr. Cerf as a spokesperson for Better Hearing is of particular significance to people with hearing loss,” Kochkin says. “Dr. Cerf is a communications pioneer who has contributed worldwide to the development of the Internet and E-mail; and now these are common tools in modern communication. We are hoping that his involvement in hearing health will motivate Americans with hearing loss, who have benefited from the Internet and E-mail, to also explore digital technology as a means of enhancing their ability to hear, listen, and communicate.”

The PBS documentary is also available for viewing or download at www.betterhearing.org.

[SOURCE: Better Hearing Institute, August 24, 2006]