Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsors World Hearing Day (WHD), specifically on March 3. (Why March 3? Because 3.3 resembles the shape of the two ears, especially if you write the first one backwards: 3.3) The WHO predicts “the prevalence of hearing loss will rise considerably” in the coming years, and they know “many of the causes that lead to hearing loss are preventable.”

I like that World Hearing Day is sponsored by the World Health Organization. It makes hearing health part of the overall discussion of health and wellness. It raises awareness and encourages behavioral change, whether you have hearing loss or whether you want to prevent hearing loss. More focus on preventive care will lead to better health and hearing wellness before it ever has a chance to become hearing loss. Increased awareness of treatment and assistive devices motivates more people to take action. That is important because most hearing situations can be improved with the right resources.

World Hearing Day 2020

The WHO encourages those with hearing loss to embrace technology and resources for better living. “Don’t let hearing loss limit you,” goes the 2020 theme. (Of course, I might have suggested “Conquer Life!”) Too many people fear hearing loss and avoid the audiologists and hearing aids that can significantly improve their health. The statistics are startling.

What is the state of “hearing health awareness” in the U.S.?

The World Hearing Day statistics made me curious. So, I decided to conduct my investigation to measure interest in hearing health by using social media. Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform now tops 220 million users in the U.S. According to the WHO, about 11 million of those users (5%) probably have some hearing loss, but I could only find 3.7 million (1.7%) who list “hearing” as an “interest” on their profile. Narrowing the field to “hearing loss” reveals less than 400,000 interested users—about two-tenths of one percent of the population.

But we should be much more interested in hearing loss and hearing wellness. The WHO reports hearing rehabilitation leads to significant societal and economic benefits, including:

So, here’s what Akoio is doing to help.

Outreach for World Hearing Day and Beyond

We found nearly 200 groups on Facebook dedicated to raising awareness and providing support for anyone affected by hearing loss (including family members and caregivers). For example, the Hearing Loss Community (HLC) of nearly 11,000 members is “for people who are accepting of all hearing loss journeys.” Parents of Children with Hearing Aids, a place for parents to “discuss their stories … and find support,” boasts more than 6,000 members. I am encouraged to see both groups added hundreds of new members in the last 30 days.

In the coming weeks, we plan to connect with many of these groups to explore how we can work together to rally support for hearing health and wellness. I’ll report back regarding our progress and discoveries here on the blog. Who knows? By this time next year, maybe we’ll look at those Facebook figures and see many more people are interested in hearing and hearing loss topics. Thank you to the World Health Organization for placing hearing front and center in the total picture of health and wellness.

To help us in our quest, please consider joining our Facebook page at facebook.com/akoiocompany

Bill Schiffmiller is the CEO and Founder of Akoio, a company dedicated to providing products and services tailored to the needs of people with hearing loss. A life-long hearing aid user and hearing wellness advocate, Bill was the former Accessibility Advocate for Apple, Inc., and received his Master of Professional Studies degree in Design Management at Pratt Institute.