“Hear the World” to Help People with Hearing Loss

Editor: “Hear the World”, a foundation established by Phonak, will be supporting charitable organizations and projects focused on helping people with hearing loss.

Tenor and conductor Plcido Domingo and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra have joined Phonak, a leading manufacturer of innovative hearing systems, to launch Hear the World, an initiative aimed at raising awareness about the importance of hearing and the impact of hearing loss.

While hearing loss is one of the world’s most preventable disabilities, it is also one of the most common. More than 10 percent of the world’s population is hearing impaired, and it is estimated that by 2015, more than 700 million people will have some degree of hearing loss. The consequences of hearing loss can be severe and greatly affect the quality of life. The goal of the Hear the World initiative is to educate the public about the importance of good hearing, the social and emotional implications of hearing loss, and the available solutions for those with hearing impairment.

An important element of the initiative is the non-profit Hear the World Foundation, which Phonak will launch in January 2007. The foundation will support charitable organizations and projects focused on helping hearing impaired people.

“Today, hearing is not perceived as an important topic,” says Valentin Chapero, CEO of the Phonak Group. “With Hear the World, we want to put hearing on the agenda and start a social dialogue. Hear the World wants to activate people to think about their hearing, to think about what it means not to be able to hear well. We want to show the public what can be done to prevent hearing loss, as well as what can be done to minimize its social and personal impact.”

Music is a universal language that goes beyond geographical, social and linguistic boundaries. It is the ideal medium to spread the message of Hear the World. Renowned musical artists are the perfect ambassadors for this important and emotional topic. Plácido Domingo and the Vienna Philharmonic share Phonak’s commitment to making people around the world aware of how they can protect and support the vital sense of hearing.

“Hear the World – three simple words that represent an ambitious goal,” says Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, president and first violin of the Vienna Philharmonic. “We are very proud to be involved. After all, our world revolves around the sense of hearing.” Plácido Domingo, tenor, conductor, and general director of both the Los Angeles Opera and the Washington National Opera adds: “As a singer and conductor, hearing is for me the most important thing in my life. You cannot sing or conduct if your ears are not in shape, so you have to keep them in shape. I am very enthusiastic about Hear the World, because people need to understand how valuable good hearing is.”

To launch Hear the World, Phonak releases results from a survey the company had commissioned and which details more than 3,000 American, French and German respondents’ views about hearing and hearing loss.

Highlights from the survey include:

• What would people miss the most if they could not hear? Interestingly, the survey showed different results for each country – while Germans ranked music first, the French valued conversation over music, and Americans showed a primary attachment to the sound of familiar voices.

• Why won’t people use hearing instruments? A majority (around 40% in Germany and France) of respondents felt that the aesthetics and design of the instruments dissuaded use. Another reason are the negative impressions that they believed the use of hearing instruments conveyed to others, such as advanced age and the fear that they would appear handicapped.

• How many people have had their hearing tested? Surprisingly, across all countries, people aged 65 and older showed the highest percentage of respondents who have never been tested, while this age group is also the group that is most affected by hearing loss.

• Do people protect their hearing? People between the ages of 25 and 64 in the U.S. were the most cautious about exposure to loud noise, while the youngest and oldest age groups tended to take the danger more lightly. “The results of the survey reaffirmed our belief that people in all age groups need further education about hearing health,” states Valentin Chapero. “Unfortunately, people don’t value and protect their hearing enough. At the same time, hearing loss and hearing instruments continue to be stigmatized. We aim to address both issues with Hear the World.”

About Phonak

Headquartered near Zurich, Switzerland, the Phonak Group specializes in the design, development, production and worldwide distribution of technologically advanced hearing instruments. Our expertise in hearing technology and strong cooperation with hearing care professionals allows us to make substantial improvements in the lives of the hearing impaired and those close to them.

Through our multiple brands, the Phonak Group offers a complete range of digital hearing instruments, along with high-tech specialty products and complementary wireless communication systems. With our 3,700 employees worldwide, the Phonak Group has become one of the technological leaders in the industry.

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