The Special Olympics are the world’s largest sporting movement for people with mental and multiple disabilities to be officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Over 4.2 million children, young people and adults take part in the Special Olympics’ sporting activities and competitions.

Place & Year

Worldwide, since 2011

Project Partners

Special Olympics


Technology Funding Knowledge

Main Focus

Children Providing audiological care for children in low-income countries is a focal area of the Hear the World Foundation’s activities.
Professional training The Hear the World Foundation supports projects that enable continuous audiological training for professionals on site.
Prevention of hearing loss The Hear the World Foundation globally promotes awareness for the topics of hearing and hearing loss and thus actively contributes toward the prevention of hearing loss.
Programs for parents & families By supporting self-help groups for parents, the Hear the World Foundation makes an important contribution, thus ensuring that affected parents receive specific help and assistance.

The Special Olympics summer and winter games always attract vast numbers of athletes from countries all over the world. The competitors have great ambitions to win medals – but they have plenty of fun too. Yet the focus at these events is not solely on sport: “Our athletes represent a section of the population that is more poorly served in terms of medical care than any other. Many of them run a much higher risk of being affected by additional health problems, such as hearing loss or impaired vision, often accompanied by poor nourishment and vitamin deficiency,” explains Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics. These people have particular difficulty gaining access to adequate medical treatment in poorer countries. The Special Olympics are therefore not just sporting contests, but also the world’s largest healthcare program for people with mental disabilities.


Within the framework of the Special Olympics sporting events, athletes are offered medical check-ups as part of the “Healthy Athletes” program. “Healthy Hearing” is one of seven areas covered by the health promotion and prevention program. Hear the World has been involved in this project since 2011 as a global sponsor for Healthy Hearing. This support is highly required since up to 25% of the Special Olympics athletes have an undiagnosed hearing loss. If hearing aids cannot be fitted directly at the event, Sonova representatives in the athletes’ home countries guarantee professional care and continuous support for them locally.

Hearing screenings are not just carried out at the Special Olympics World Summer and Winter Games; they are also a feature of numerous national competitions and activities held around the world. In India, for example, “Hearing Camps” were organized in six cities, where the hearing ability of 74 athletes was tested over two days of examinations. Hearing loss was diagnosed in 320 athletes, who have been provided with Phonak hearing aids at no charge.

A global network for handicapped athletes

The aim of the cooperation between the Special Olympics and the Hear the World Foundation is to create a network, which is intended to enable increasing numbers of athletes to enjoy improved hearing in future. All athletes who are diagnosed with hearing loss  are referred to a Sonova representative in their home countries. If necessary, they are also put in contact with local clinics and universities so they can receive help for any further medical problems that arise.

The 24-year-old marathon swimmer and Special Olympics participant Sagar Badve from Aurangabad, India, offers an impressive example of what athletes can achieve in spite of their disabilities.

Sagar Badve’s room is already filled with more than 100 gold medals from national and international competitions. In India. he has already completed the world’s longest marathon of more than 80 kilometers. In spite of his severe bilateral hearing loss and partial blindness as a result of glaucoma, the 24-year-old has just completed a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and is also a state-certified swimming instructor. At the fourth Hearing Camp in Mumbai in November 2013 Sagar was finally given customized hearing aids. He already has his next target in his sights: to swim across the English Channel.

I want to thank Hear the World for this initiative that has changed the life of my son!»