Prevention of blindness and deafness

Overview of WHO’s programme for the prevention of deafness and hearing loss

A resolution on hearing loss was approved and adopted by the 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva on 30th May. The WHO programme for prevention of deafness and hearing loss works with the vision of a world in which no person experiences hearing loss due to preventable causes and those with unavoidable hearing loss can achieve their full potential through appropriate interventions, education and empowerment. It aims to promote ear and hearing care (EHC), integrated within the primary health care systems of its Member States.


WHO estimates that approximately 15% of the world’s adult population experience some degree (mild and above) of hearing loss. Of these, 360 million live with disabling hearing loss. Majority of those with hearing loss live in the less developed areas of the world.

World Hearing Day: 3 March

World Hearing Day is an annual advocacy event which aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world. The theme for World Hearing Day 2017 was ‘Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment’.

WHO-ITU Consultation on Make Listening Safe

WHO estimates that 1.1 billion young people worldwide could be at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. Concerned at the increasing risks posed by exposure to loud sounds from the unsafe use of personal audio devices such as smartphones and MP3 players and noisy entertainment venues including nightclubs, bars and sporting events, WHO launched the Make Listening Safe initiative on 3 March 2015.

WHO network of collaborating centres for prevention of deafness and hearing loss

The WHO programme for prevention of deafness and hearing loss (PDH) is supported in its activities by a network of WHO Collaborating Centres.

fact buffet

Hearing loss

360 millionpeople live with disabling hearing loss

Global data on hearing loss

Safe listening

>1 billionyoung people (12-35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sounds

Make Listening Safe

Global costs

750 billionis the overall cost of unaddressing hearing loss globally

Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss

Featured publications

Childhood hearing loss: strategies for prevention and care

WHO primary ear and hearing care training manuals

Planning for ear and hearing care

Other publications


Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss and cost effectiveness of interventions

World Health Assembly Resolution on hearing loss

Upcoming events

3-4 July 2017

2nd Stakeholders consultation for the WHO programme on prevention of deafness and hearing loss: WHO HQ, Geneva, Switzerland

6-7 July 2017

WHO ad hoc consultation on advocacy tools for ear and hearing care: WHO HQ, Geneva, Switzerland

Recent events

30 May 2017: World Health Assembly passes a resolution on hearing loss

4-5 May 2017: 3rd meeting of the eye and ear care managers at the ministries of health Latin America and the Caribbean : Bogota, Colombia

Managers of eye and ear care programmes from 26 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean met in Bogota to discuss ways and means to promote ear and hearing care as well as eye care strategies in their countries. The meeting, which was organized by the WHO Regional Office of the Americas sensitized the country representatives to WHO’s programmes and tools and planned future actions in the participating Member States.

19-20 April 2017: 2nd meeting of the WHO working group for revision of ear and hearing disorders survey protocol: London, UK

WHO is in the process of developing a handbook to assist Member States in undertaking prevalence surveys to assess the extent and causes of hearing loss. A working group has been constituted for guiding this process. The 2nd meeting of this working group has resulted in the development of the draft handbook, with proposal to include a rapid assessment tool for estimation of hearing loss prevalence. The handbook is likely to be finalized by end of 2017.

6-7 March 2017: WHO-ITU consultation on the Make Listening Safe initiative

The Make Listening safe initiative of WHO aims to reduce the risk of hearing loss posed by unsafe listening. A consultation on this initiative was organized in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) at the WHO headquarters with the objectives to review progress in different areas of work as part of this initiative and to determine next steps. Experts in the field of audiology, public health, epidemiology, acoustics, sound engineering, representatives of standardization agencies, consumer organizations, manufacturers and users of personal audio systems participated in the discussions. Concrete actions were planned and timelines set for their completion including development of standards for safe listening devices; health communication strategy; app for safe listening and research protocol. WHO Make Listening Safe

3 March 2017: World Hearing Day 2017

This year on World Hearing Day 2017, 3 March, WHO joined partners in drawing attention to the economic impact of hearing loss through the theme “Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment”. WHO released a new report, namely Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss and cost-effectiveness of interventions. An event was organized at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to mark the Day.

Contact us

World Health Organization Prevention of Blindness and Deafness (PBD) 20 Avenue Appia CH-1211 Geneva 27 Switzerland