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Hope for the holidays: Help someone with hearing loss

The holidays are upon us, and we at Healthy Hearing think this is an important time to count our blessings and to make a donation - even a small one - to organizations that support people with hearing loss around the world. Here's some information about three worthy organizations we are thankful for:

Discovering Deaf Worlds

Discovering Deaf Worlds is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works in developing countries to help partner organizations with organizational development and capacity building for its signing deaf communities. DDW travels to communities where it can have the greatest impact. The organization views sign language as a natural right that contributes to human diversity in culture and language, and the organization "envisions a global community of sign language users who can acquire an education, pursue a career, and live a life that is comparable to that of their non-Deaf peers." This goal is especially important because, according to an informational video from DDW, more than 180 million deaf people around the world are illiterate. For example, while there are 27,000 deaf people in Costa Rica, the country only has two schools for the deaf and 10 interpreters nationwide. In India, many children born deaf are abandoned because their families are unable to care for them.

Service animals are used for deaf or hard-of-hearing individualsDiscovering Deaf Worlds is seeking to shift the paradigm through advocacy, awareness, and infrastructural financing and support. If you'd like to support DDF, you can make a monthly donation, make a one-time donation or volunteer on a trip abroad.

World Wide Hearing

World Wide Hearing is a nonprofit located in Montreal that has a global focus. Worldwide, there are more than 642 million people with some degree of hearing loss. Of this population, 278 million have hearing loss that is disabling, and 80 percent of them come from low- and middle-income countries. WWH focuses on providing hearing aids to all people with hearing loss, but they are especially focused on children because providing hearing aids in childhood can significantly impact a child's trajectory through life. WWH has run projects in China, Brazil, India, the Philippines and Jordan thus far.

What sets WWH apart from other groups is that they focus on sustainability. Not only do they test hearing and provide hearing aids - obtained at low costs through partner manufacturers - to those who need them, but they also partner with local organizations and implement a five-week training course for local people to become audio-technicians. After the course, the trained individuals are given equipment from WWH in the form of a hearing kit backpack that contains everything one would need to test hearing: an otoscope, portable audiometer with noise-canceling headphones, solar-powered battery charger with rechargeable batteries and self-programmable hearing aids. This program, called Hearing Express™, allows people in low-income communities abroad access to new digital hearing aids. Additionally, WWH is working on a prototype for ear molds that take only four minutes to set, rather than the standard two weeks. The Hearing Express™ program is for people with up to 70 dB of hearing loss, which is mild to moderate. The other 20 percent of people WWH sees are referred to a doctor.

If you'd like to support World Wide Hearing, you can become a member, donate online to Hearing Express™ or volunteer your services.

National Education for Assistance Dog Services

NEADS is a nonprofit, established in 1976, that trains a variety of therapy dogs - including hearing assistance dogs - and places them with people in need. Since 1976, the organization has placed more than 1,400 dogs with individuals with hearing loss and other physical and emotional needs. For people with hearing loss, the dogs are trained to alert them to a ringing alarm clock, smoke detector, knocking on the door, keys dropping, approaching traffic, their name being called, the phone ringing and other sounds.

NEADS does good work on a variety of levels. For starters, many NEADS dogs come from local shelters. After eight weeks of basic training and socialization - including important things like to be unafraid of loud noises and unusual items, as most dogs are - the puppies are sent to be trained in one of 10 correctional facilities in New England in the Prison PUP Partnership for 12 to 18 months. The importance of this program is that inmates have plenty of time to spend with the dogs, which is important. Additionally, the Prison PUP Program creates a sense of meaning and purpose for inmates, who are each assigned to train a dog that lives with them in their dorms and comes with them during most of their daily activities.

If you're interested in supporting this innovative, multifaceted organization, you can do so through making a monetary donation, contributing items to NEADS's wish list, caring for puppies on the weekends, outfitting an entire prison dorm with dog toys and enrichment opportunities for one year, or making a donation that will allow you to name one of the puppies.

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