Though some doubted it could be accomplished, not only did multiple disciplines join forces in Washington, but many common challenges and rewards involved within humanitarian hearing health initiatives were addressed.

With a little more than 2 years since it’s inception, the inaugural conference for the Coalition for Global Hearing Health, held in June, was considered an international success, with attendees from 17 countries worldwide.

Conference co-organizers James E. Saunders, MD, of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical, and Jackie L. Clark, PhD, of University of Texas at Dallas, have long-established roots in the international arenas as humanitarian committee chairs within their professional organizations: American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) and the International Society of Audiology, respectively.

“It’s exciting that not only stakeholders from around the world were able to attend the conference, but despite the varying disciplines attending there were many engaging conversations and agreement that the Conference was long overdue in the making," said Clark. "This conference allows ISA’s Humanitarian Committee to also meet one of its four goals: Provide a flow of information relevant to humanitarian projects. None of this could have been accomplished without cooperation from many disciplines that formed our strategic core planning group.” 

Saunders said the group was "delighted to launch the Coalition for Global Hearing Health at this important gathering, with representatives from the USA, the developed world, and the developing world, to address the critical need for global hearing health." He noted that AAO-HNSF and International Society of Audiology helped realize this event, and generous support was given by MedEl Corp, NCHAM, and Advanced Bionics.

The inaugural conference took place at the AAO-HNSF headquarters in Alexandria, Va, with an ambitious agenda covering a broad array of topics within humanitarian hearing care.

With a cadre of 27 speakers, the scientific program consisted of a four-track symposium with the themes of epidemiology; technology; local support and sustainability; and strategies, ethics, and social awareness.

Presentation topics included feasibility of newborn screening in developing countries; deafness prevalence in Sri Lanka/Myanmar; conducting a national survey; optimizing resources and donations of hearing aids; teleaudiology and telemedicine; tackling health care problems through a social business model; global priorities for hearing loss; cochlear implantation in developing countries; ethics of humanitarian hearing health care.

A reception and presentation were held in conjunction with the conference. Andrew Smith, MD, formerly with the World Health Organization (WHO) and currently with the London School of Tropical Medicine, and Bolajoko Olusanya, MBBS, PhD, FMCPaed of the Institute of Child Health, Lagos, Nigeria, were featured speakers.

The Coalition aims to raise awareness, it says, in light of the WHO’s having documented that most of the world’s hearing-impaired people live in developing countries. The Coalition’s mission is to advocate, to encourage and perpetuate best practices, and to equip/empower hearing care professionals, families, educators, communities, and hearing-impaired individuals.

The Coalition is comprised of a broad spectrum of stakeholders in developed and developing countries, domestically and internationally, who are involved in hearing care. They include audiologists, otolaryngologists, social entrepreneurs, deaf educators, philanthropists, corporate representatives, and nongovernmental organization administrators.

Click here to access lectures presented at the conference.

[Source: Coalition for Global Hearing Health]