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Coalition for Global Hearing Health Conference Notes

Though some doubted it could be accomplished, not only did multiple disciplines join forces in Washington, D.C., but many common challenges and rewards involved within Humanitarian Hearing Health Initiatives was addressed.

With a little more than two years since it’s inception, the inaugural conference for the Coalition for Global Hearing Health, which took place June 14 and 15, was easily considered an international success with attendees from 17 countries world-wide. 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 on the International arenas as Humanitarian Committee Chairs within their professional organizations (American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head Neck Surgery Foundation and the International Society of Audiology, respectively).

The inaugural conference took place at the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) headquarters in Alexandria, VA with an exceptionally ambitious agenda covering a broad array of topics within Humanitarian Hearing Healthcare. 

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.

Presentations varied from feasibility of newborn screening in developing countries; deafness prevalence in Sri Lanke/Myanmar; conducting a national survey; optimizing resources and donations of hearing aids; teleaudiology and telemedicine; tackling healthcare problems through a social business model; global priorities for hearing loss; cochlear implantation in developing countries; ethics of humanitarian hearing healthcare. Some of the comments by attendees were: “I met so many people and was impressed with how much so many people are doing.” “It's inspirational to learn of the many audiology/otology collaborative humanitarian efforts occurring worldwide. ” “It [the conference] went superbly well and I think everyone was inspired by the breadth and depth of the speakers.” The day was concluded with a special reception and presentation in conjunction with the Global Health Conference taking place. Featured speakers were Andrew Smith, MD, formerly with the World Health Organization and currently with the London School of Tropical Medicine, and Bolajoko Olusanya, MBBS, PhD, FMCPaed of the Institute of Child Health, Lagos, Nigeria. 

When considering that the World Health Organization has documented that most of those world’s hearing impaired people live in developing countries, the Coalition for Global Hearing Health sees itself as a means of raising awareness. The Coalition of Global Hearing Health Care is comprised of the broad spectrum of stakeholders (in developed and developing countries domestically and internationally) involved in hearing health care practitioners that include audiologists, otolaryngologists, social entrepreneurs, deaf educators, philanthropists, corporate representatives, non-governmental organization administrators. Its expressed purpose is to advocate, to encourage and perpetuate best practices, and to equip/empower both hearing healthcare professionals, families, educators, communities and the hearing impaired. 

Co-organizer, Professor Jackie Clark indicated “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.

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”. 

In describing the historic conference, co-organizer Dr. James Saunders said, “We are 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. The conference was possible thanks to the AAO-HNSF and International Society of Audiology (ISA), and generous support from MedEl Corporation, NCHAM, and Advanced Bionics.” 

To access the recorded lectures given at the conference, please visit Coalition for Global Hearing Health.

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