In honor of World Hearing Day, March 3, World Wide Hearing, a non-profit organization providing universal access to affordable hearing aids and services to children and youth in developing countries, shared the story below to address the consequences of deeply rooted stigma and high economic costs of hearing loss. This story demonstrates exactly why we need to support families across the globe who are affected by hearing loss.
Hearing Loss is a disability that affects 1.3 billion people worldwide. In developing countries, hearing loss is greatly stigmatized, often considered a curse from God. Parents are ashamed of having a child with a hearing disability and often keep them hidden away at home.
Achlam, a 13-year-old girl in Jordan, was kept at home by her father while her two brothers went to school. Her father believed there was no point sending her to school if she could not hear her teachers. Achlam started sneaking away from home during the day and secretly received rehabilitation at a local School for the Deaf. Years later, her father went to see the director of the School for the Deaf where Achlam snuck away to and gave him a huge hug. He said: “do you know that my daughter now earns more than me and my sons combined?”
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With hard work and sacrifice, Achlam eventually became a teacher for the Deaf and went on to earn her Master's Degree. Now an adult, Achlam has traveled the world representing the Deaf community and is member of the top management of the school that helped her as a young girl. Hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s time to bring stories like Achlam’s out in the open. It’s time to consider the consequences that steep costs to hearing health care and unrelenting stigmas create.
As part of World Hearing Day, the World Health Organization is hosting an event in Beijing. The goal of the event aims to build awareness for ear and hearing care worldwide. Advocates will discuss the economic impact of hearing loss, the cost effectiveness of interventions to address it, and the positive impact such changes will have on the lives of those affected.
If you look at the numbers, hearing loss does not discriminate. It’s a disability that affects people all around the world. In developing countries, there are deeply rooted cultural and social stigmas that prevent people from both seeking and receiving the hearing health care and education they need. This young Jordanian woman shows us that it’s possible to overcome such stigmas and flourish.
Take Action: Share Achlam’s story so that we bring hearing loss into the open and can celebrate World Hearing Day.