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ASHA/PAHO Collaboration Addresses Critical Need Raised by New WHO Report

March 3, 2021

(Rockville, MD) The World Health Organization (WHO) released today the first ever World Report on Hearing, a document that indirectly but clearly underscores the importance of a collaboration between the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

WHO has estimated that unaddressed hearing loss globally costs U.S. $750 billion. Additionally, it says that 466 million people have disabling hearing loss—a number that they estimate will increase to over 900 million by 2050.

Defining the direction for addressing such issues is why WHO issued its new report. Among other things, it calls for community-level engagement through a trained workforce—the very focus of the ASHA/PAHO collaboration.

“It is exciting to see ear and hearing care put in the global spotlight,” said ASHA President A. Lynn Williams, PhD, CCC-SLP, referring to the World Report on Hearing. “Though that care is extremely important, it is often overlooked. Consequently, we highly value and appreciate our collaboration with PAHO,” she noted. “It has enabled us to play a role in building the capacity of Latin American and Caribbean countries to provide professional care for ear and hearing issues and communication disorders in general.”

Started in 2013, the ASHA/PAHO collaboration has helped develop university programs, training modules, and workshops in Honduras, El Salvador, Guyana, Belize, and Ecuador. The combined effort has produced a critically needed outcome: graduates.

For example, there used to be only one audiologist in all of Guyana. Today, five students have already graduated from an audiology/speech-language pathology program that the ASHA/PAHO collaboration helped develop. Eleven more are on track to graduate there next year, and the story is similar in other countries where the collaboration has been active. Seeds planted for having more trained professionals are also blossoming there.

“I am very grateful to our ASHA member volunteers who have been part of the ASHA/PAHO collaboration, sharing their professional expertise on site,” President Williams added.

“Working together with PAHO and health and education officials at several levels in the countries where the collaboration has been involved, we believe we have been and are making an important and lasting difference. Yet, the need is great—as WHO’s new report indicates. In total, it is a strong call for us to renew our commitment to the work of the ASHA/PAHO collaboration.”

ASHA/PAHO Collaboration

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 218,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

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