Cochlear Limited, Sydney, Australia, a global leader in cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing aid solutions, has pledged $10 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore to establish the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health. The Center—which will be led by Frank Lin, MD, PhD, one of the field’s most respected researchers—will reportedly be a first of its kind at any academic institution focused on addressing hearing loss as a global public health priority.
The Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins will be a first of its kind at any academic institution focused on addressing hearing loss as a global public health priority.
The Center will the global impact of hearing loss by conducting research studies to determine the gravity of hearing loss (particularly among older adults) to public health, developing and testing interventions to mitigate the effects of hearing loss, and helping craft policies and strategies to ensure successful implementation of hearing loss interventions at the local, national and global levels. Most importantly, the Center will recruit and train the next generation of researchers and public health experts to advance these goals well into the future.
According to the company, Cochlear’s $10 million gift will be made over a period of 10 years. Cochlear will collaborate with the Center to help amplify its impact on worldwide public health. Cochlear will also have representation on the Center’s Advisory Board to provide feedback and to help identify opportunities for continued industry-academic collaborations in furthering the Center’s core mission focused on hearing and public health. The company has a global workforce of more than 3,000 people and invests more than AUD$150 million (US$116 MM) a year in research and development.
Dr Lin has been a prominent researcher focusing on the prevalence and impact of hearing loss, with many scientific studies that look at the associations between hearing loss and cognitive disorders, dementia, balance issues and falls, and more. He also presented the keynote session at the 2014 Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) Convention.
“At Cochlear, we are driven by our mission to improve the lives of people with hearing loss, and our gift to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health supports this commitment,” said Cochlear CEO and President Dig Howitt in a press statement. “Hearing loss is a major public health problem. There is increasing evidence of the importance of hearing to overall health, especially as people age. Developing evidence of the impact of untreated hearing loss on people’s health, on our communities and the economy is critical to ensuring hearing loss is treated appropriately. Cochlear is making an investment to build collaborative partnerships within the global medical research community and to be actively involved in delivering evidence-based research so we can better understand, address and provide access to treatment options for individuals and communities impacted by hearing loss.”
Hearing loss is a significant public health issue around the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 360 million people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide, and that number is projected to grow considerably due to population growth and aging. The WHO estimates one-third of people over age 65 are affected by disabling hearing loss, and based on the work of Dr Lin we know that hearing loss is connected to increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.3 As the prevalence rates rise, the global cost of unaddressed hearing loss has been estimated at $750 billion per year.
“The Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health will be dedicated to understanding and addressing the impact of hearing loss on public health,” said Dr Lin. “The Center represents a unique collaboration between industry and academia that is possible because of the shared vision that hearing and our ability to engage effectively with others and the environment is fundamental to human health but not yet a priority in public health. Implementation of public health initiatives around hearing—or nearly any other public health problem—requires insights from industry into how to create scalable commercial and economic models for the development and delivery of services and technology. Cochlear will be able to provide these insights to the Center.”
Cochlear’s global headquarters is based on the campus of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and is also adjacent to the Australian Hearing Hub. This gift will help facilitate closer multidisciplinary engagement across industry, academic, and clinical to help spur future training and research partnerships. Opportunities include but are not limited to shared postdoctoral fellowships, a shared Masters of Public Health program, shared PhD programs and faculty exchanges.
“This gift is a tribute to the accomplishments Johns Hopkins University has already achieved in our field and showcases our belief in the future achievements of the Center,” said Cochlear’s Chief Medical Officer David N. Cade, MD. “It is also a reflection of our shared vision to make hearing and the ability to communicate priorities in the spheres of public health and policy. Through our work together, we hope hearing loss will no longer be an unaddressed, debilitating public health issue impacting the ability for so many to connect with others and to live full lives.”
Cochlear and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health celebrated the official opening of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health on World Hearing Day, March 3.