World Hearing Day 2024:

Transforming Global Hearing Health by Changing Mindsets and Fighting Stigma

Mercy from Zambia had a chronic middle ear infection that caused holes in her eardrums. She could not hear well. She often played alone.

Celebrate World Hearing Day 2024 with us as we transform global hearing health by changing mindsets and fighting stigma. Learn how we are making ear and hearing care accessible to all.

On the 3rd of March every year, World Hearing Day is observed. The 2024 theme is “Changing Mindsets: Let’s make ear and hearing care a reality for all!” 

CBM supports efforts where optimal ear health and assistive hearing technology are accessible to all. Through evidence generation, innovation and capacity building, we aim to remove the barriers that prevent people from accessing essential ear and hearing care services. 

We understand that achieving this goal requires more than just providing technical support.  The stigma that accompanies hearing loss can have many effects. It prevents people from seeking treatment at a personal level.  At a community level, people with hearing impairments sometimes struggle to be accepted and are not able to fully participate in their community. 

This year’s theme emphasises  fighting the misconceptions about hearing impairment and the use of hearing aids and other assistive devices. It stresses the need to improve ear and hearing care (EHC) services, particularly in limited resources settings. 

CBM promotes a comprehensive approach, focusing on healthcare, community outreach and connections with other Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) projects such as inclusive education, rehabilitation and disaster risk reduction. 

Diego Santana, Senior Ear and Hearing Care CBID Advisor at CBM, said: “Ear and hearing care, within our global CBID work, integrates awareness, advocacy and collaborative action. We aim to contribute to a more inclusive world where optimal ear health and hearing assistive technology are universally accessible, through evidence generation, innovation, and capacity building. 

We cannot achieve this without addressing stigma and changing mindsets about ear and hearing care, locally, regionally, and globally. We provide technical advisory support to UN agencies and international collaborators while working alongside CBM offices and local partners to influence policymakers and raise awareness in communities. Let’s make the right kind of noise and bring about change together.” 

Why is World Hearing Day important?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), World Hearing Day is important because: 

  • The day aims to address the fact that over 80% of global ear and hearing care needs remain unmet, highlighting the urgent need for action to improve access to essential services. 

  • Unaddressed hearing loss imposes a significant economic burden, with an annual cost of nearly US$1 trillion globally. 

  • Changing mindsets surrounding ear and hearing care is crucial for enhancing access to services and reducing the economic impact of untreated hearing loss, making World Hearing Day a vital platform for advocacy and action. 

CBM and WHO share a long-term collaboration, which covers various thematic areas, such as disability and rehabilitation and ear and hearing care. CBM supported WHO in the production of the first World Report on Hearing, published in 2021. 

Changing mindsets in action

CBM’s work to raise awareness and fight stigma can be seen through a project with our partner WizEar in Zimbabwe. The project aimed to prevent childhood hearing impairments by enhancing and strengthening related EHC services in Zimbabwe. This was supported by campaigns to raise awareness within local communities, using publicity and awareness campaigns where the public was educated on ear and hearing health care. Moreover, materials that include T-shirts, pamphlets and online fliers were distributed to spread information and knowledge about ear and hearing health. 

Alongside the lifechanging ear, nose and throat surgeries, WizEar has now strengthened collaboration with Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), governmental agencies, and key stakeholders. The project has contributed to Zimbabwe’s reforms and statutory instruments. It compliments government efforts in the development of hospitals and clinics and improving the accessibility of services across the country.   

Lucia Nkomo, Programme Manager, WizEar said: “Stigma hampers personal development and affects one’s self-esteem. Addressing these issues opens new potential, independence and creativity in people with hearing impairments. Addressing stigma also opens platforms for conversations relating to hearing care service demand by communities.” 

Changing mindsets is important at the national and international level, too. As part of the project, the WizEar team and CBM’s EHC Senior advisor Diego Santana organised and co-facilitated a planning meeting for stakeholders from Zimbabwe and Zambia including health professionals, Ministries of Health and Education. WHO Zimbabwe, civil society and organisations of persons with disabilities from both countries also participated. The aim was to share experiences, learn and explore opportunities for collaboration. Three people with hearing disabilities and their sign language interpreters attended and shared their experiences of living with hearing disability and deafblindness.  

Dr Racheal Hapunda, Zambia ENT National Coordinator, Ministry of Health, Zambia, said:  

“The exchange of ideas and experiences was truly enlightening and inspiring. It has boosted our morale to move the EHC agenda forward and shows that the team has great impact and future potential. 

Mercy from Zambia received surgery at Beit Cure Hospital in Zambia. She can now hear well and go to school.

CURE International