media release

Better hearing for 196 athletes from


Staefa, Switzerland, July 27, 2011

On July 4, the 13th 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece came to a celebratory end with a moving closing ceremony in Athens. Over the course of ten days, the Greek capital played host to over 7,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities, who had come from 170 different countries to take part in these historical summer games. During the Special Olympics World Summer Games, these athletes underwent a thorough health screening program, including an in depth hearing screening. The results revealed that 22.6 percent of all the athletes tested were affected by hearing loss. The Hear the World Foundation gave a total of 344 high-quality hearing instruments to the participating athletes with treatable cases of hearing loss, and is arranging free follow-up care.

The Swiss Hear the World Foundation was established in 2006 by Phonak, the leading hearing instrument manufacturer, and is committed to improve the quality of life and promote equal opportunities for people with hearing loss. It is with this in mind that the Foundation chose to lend its support to the Special Olympics, where almost a quarter of the participating athletes are affected by hearing loss. Many of them do not wear a hearing instrument, because they cannot afford one and they do not have access to the necessary medical and audiological care in their home countries.

The Special Olympics Healthy Hearing Program tackled this problem head on by offering the athletes in Athens a comprehensive hearing screening. This service is offered as part of the larger, multidisciplinary Healthy Athletes program, aimed at ensuring access to quality health services for all participating athletes. The Hear the World Foundation supported the program and donated high-quality Phonak hearing instruments, and is organizing free follow-up care in the athletes’ respective home countries. VARTA Microbattery, a leading provider of hearing instrument batteries and a partner of the Hear the World Foundation, is also offering all of the athletes con-cerned a year’s supply of batteries to keep their hearing instruments running.

2,658 athletes underwent a hearing screening.

600 athletes were diagnosed with hearing loss, which equates to 22.6 percent of the Special Olympics athletes.

The Hear the World Foundation supplied a total of 344 high-quality Phonak hearing instruments to 196 athletes from 72 countries, and is organizing follow-up care in their home countries. 40 of these hearing instruments were fitted on site at the Special Olympics, while vouchers for fittings and follow-up care were given out for the remaining 304 hearing instruments.

“We are delighted to have been able to help so many athletes improve their hearing and, therefore, enhance their quality of life,” says Alexander Zschokke, President of the Hear the World Foundation. “As well as being a sporting event, the Special Olympics are the world’s largest health program for people with intellectual disabilities. We are proud to be making a sustainable contribution to this program.”

Various projects around the world

In addition to its cooperation with the Special Olympics, the Hear the World Foundation supports a variety of other projects all over the world in countries such as Kenya, Cambodia and the Dominican Republic.