The World Health Organization has declared World Hearing Day on 3 March to draw greater attention to the growing problem of hearing loss.
To bring greater attention to the issue of hearing loss, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared World Hearing Day on 3 March. Over 450 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss and the WHO expects the number to rise as we live longer and are increasingly exposed to dangerous noise levels in our surroundings.
The third of March is also the birthday of Alexander Graham Bell, who is credited with inventing the telephone, and was deeply involved in improving the lives of those suffering from hearing loss. Graham Bell, whose mother and wife both suffered from hearing loss, developed a system to help teach deaf-mute children to communicate with speech. His most famous student was Helen Keller.
It has been suggested that the invention of the telephone, combined with the practical application of electricity at the end of the 19th century, served as a precursor for the development of the hearing aid. However, the first commercially available hearing aids used carbon transmitters for the amplification of sound rather than the magnetic microphone used by Bell in his first telephone.
Hearing aids are an essential tool in helping those suffering from hearing loss with an estimated 8 million of such devices manufactured each year. The IEC Technical Committee (TC) 29 is responsible for developing standards related to hearing aid performance, specification and measurement. Specifically, it has prepared a series of International Standards, IEC 60118, for hearing aids. It has also developed IEC 60601-2-66:2015 which applies to the safety of hearing aids.
IEC TC 100 also addresses the needs of people with disabilities or age related limitations. Within TC 100, Technical Area (TA) 16 addresses aspects of active assisted living (AAL), accessibility and user interfaces as they relate to home electronic devices. For example, it developed IEC 62944 which specifies a set of principles and considerations for digital television products to support persons with disabilities, including individuals with hearing impairments. In 2015, the IEC System Committee on Active Assisted Living was established to develop system standards with the aim of improving the quality of people’s lives.
Those suffering from hearing loss can benefit from continued advances in technology that not only provide devices, such as hearing aids, to improve hearing but also ensure that household products, such as television sets and computers, include tools that can improve their usability for everyone regardless of their physical limitations.