Access to hearing care

Sonova and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
By providing access to hearing care, Sonova contributes to the SDGs 3 and 4. More information is provided in the corresponding section of this CR Report: Sustainable Development Goals.

Our commitment: We provide access to hearing care and improve the quality of life for millions of people with hearing loss.

Expanding market reach

Innovation is not limited to products – it also drives the way we approach the market, both through our wholesale companies and our audiological care network. The industry is seeing a rise in lower-cost channels, but also an increased emphasis on personalized care from dedicated audiologists. We address both these trends through channel partnership, vertical integration, services that generate increased customer demand, and an expanded presence in high growth markets, such as China.

Broad product portfolio

Our declared goal is to offer the most technologically advanced hearing solutions and services available to users worldwide. The comprehensive, interdisciplinary knowledge that we acquire in the process is factored into each of our products. It also enables us to offer a broad spectrum of service and pricing levels for individual needs and different markets in both developing and developed countries. Operating through many channels multiplies the potential paths to hearing in all markets, even in parts of the world where care has been in short supply.

Customized solutions

Around 1.3 billion people around the world speak a Sinitic language such as Mandarin or Cantonese1. These are tonal languages, where the basic frequencies communicate the information content of words. To better understand the specific needs of Chinese people with hearing loss, we are working with China’s largest hospital, the Tongren Hospital, in Beijing. The result is a specific prescription formula for the amplification/frequency curve shapes of tonal languages – or, to put it more simply, hearing aids offering significantly better speech clarity for millions of people in Asia.

  1. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 22nd edition (2019)

Sonova’s training center in Suzhou (China) offers practice-oriented training courses for hearing care professionals from the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Education and training of hearing care practitioners

In China, there is a significant lack of comprehensive, practical training for qualified hearing care professionals. That is why Sonova decided to bridge the gap and build a training center – the Global Hearing Institute in Suzhou. The center offers advanced audiology courses and practical training for optimal hearing solutions with a customer focus; it features a soundproof room for hearing tests and workstations for fitting ear-molds.

The uptake of training courses by hearing care practitioners from across China has been very strong since the center opened in May 2017. After the courses, participants keep in touch with their trainers via chat and can contact them if they need advice on issues back in the workplace. Around 1,600 students have been enrolled and trained at the Global Hearing Institute since 2017 and around 4,000 per year are trained online by audiologists and product specialists.

students have been enrolled and trained at Sonova Global Hearing Institute in Suzhou since 2017

Distribution network and remote access

We strive to expand access to hearing care by offering the industry’s broadest distribution network with over 3,500 own stores and clinics. Over 7,000 Sonova employees work for our audiological care business.

Sonova’s efforts to increase access to hearing care for people living in rural areas led to the TeleAudiology model, pioneered by Triton Hearing, a Sonova Group company in New Zealand. Despite Triton’s nationwide network of 70 clinics across the country, many New Zealanders still find seeing an audiologist difficult, especially in communities of indigenous people living in remote areas. In 2018, Triton fitted out a 1949 Bedford bus with state-of-the-art diagnostic hearing equipment and turned into a mobile, full-service hearing clinic. An ear nurse provides the in-room support: including performing video otoscopy, positioning transducers, and handling hearing aids. Through TeleAudiology, clients are connected with audiologists over a high-definition teleconferencing system. It is possible to provide a full diagnostics assessment, hearing and communication needs assessment, impression taking, hearing aid fitting and verification, purchase and follow-up services through a synchronous, live connection.

In 2018/19, the mobile hearing clinic bus traveled more than 5,000 kilometers across New Zealand, visiting 30 locations and reaching almost 2,000 new customers.

Samuel can finally hear better thanks to his new Unitron hearing aids. His permanent bilateral hearing loss was diagnosed during a hearing screening campaign at a school in Peru – one of 23 projects supported by the Hear the World Foundation in 2018/19.

Corporate citizenship and philanthropy

Hear the World Foundation

Around 466 million people worldwide – over 5% of the world’s population – suffer from disabling hearing loss1; 34 million of these are children. The majority of people with disabling hearing loss live in low- and middle-income countries with no or little access to audiological care.2

The consequences of untreated hearing loss, especially for children, can be severe, as the development of speech and language is fundamentally dependent on the sense of hearing. Untreated hearing loss is also often associated with social isolation, less chance of getting an education, poor prospects for future employment, and reduced opportunities to live a life without limitations.

Founded by Sonova in 2006, the charitable Hear the World Foundation works to counteract this. The Foundation is committed to creating equal opportunities and a better standard of living for people in need with hearing loss, and particularly children in low- and middle-income countries. The key is education and prevention of hearing loss, along with financial and technological support of aid projects that bring better hearing to people who desperately need it.

In 2018/19, the Foundation provided funding, hearing aid technology and expertise for 23 projects. In Peru, together with a local partner, it tested the hearing of over 20,000 children, fitted 100 children with hearing aids, and trained 50 speech therapy students to become audiology technicians.

child hearing screenings in 23 projects supported by the Hear the World Foundation in 2018/19

Since 2006, Sonova employees have successfully supported over 90 projects all around the world on many voluntary missions, helping thousands of children through advanced hearing solutions and actively contributing to building local audiological care infrastructure. Starting in 2013, the Foundation aims to achieve a total of 14,000 hours of volunteer work from Sonova employees by 2020. So far, the total is 11,520 hours (2018/19: 3,120 hours).

  1. WHO definition of disabling hearing loss: hearing loss greater than 40dB in the better hearing ear in adults and a hearing loss greater than 30dB in the better hearing ear in children
  2. WHO, “Addressing the rising prevalence of hearing loss” (2018)

Group-wide strategy

Sonova’s corporate citizenship/philanthropic engagement at Group level has a strong focus on the Hear the World Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to improve the quality of life of people worldwide in need with hearing loss and create equal opportunities. The strategy is well aligned with Sonova’s overall corporate strategy and vision of a world where everyone enjoys the delight of hearing and therefore lives a life without limitations. The Hear the World Foundation makes essential contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 (good health and wellbeing) and SDG 4 (quality education).

The priorities of the Foundation’s activities are projects to support children in need with hearing loss (supporting SDG 3: good health and wellbeing), education and training of clinicians (supporting SDG 4: quality education), and prevention of hearing loss (supporting SDG 3). The benefits of these activities are measured with different key performance indicators, such as the number of hearing solutions donated (2018/19: over 1,400), the number of professionals trained (2018/19: over 275), and the number of hearing screenings conducted (2018/19: over 90,000). The Hear the World Foundation Activity Report is published annually and provides detailed information on the Foundation’s activities and performance.

The activities of the Hear the World Foundation are well aligned with Sonova’s business drivers and allow us to leverage our vision, brand, and strengths as a leading provider of hearing solutions to have a maximum impact on the beneficiaries of the aid projects. The Foundation’s projects improve access to hearing care, especially in low- and middle-income countries, build up local capacity with training in countries that lack qualified hearing care professionals, and contribute to high employee engagement by offering volunteering opportunities.

Corporate citizenship and philanthropic contributions

In the 2018/19 financial year, the total monetary value of Sonovaʼs contribution to corporate citizenship and philanthropic activities amounted to around 3.3 million CHF.

Type of activities
















Community investments





Charitable donations





Commercial initiatives





1 only contributions at Sonova Group level included, does not include contributions at brand level

The vast majority (90%) of all contributions were community investments: long-term strategic involvement with community partner organizations through the Hear the World Foundation with the aim to improve quality of life and create equal opportunities. A total of 2% of the cost of all activities were charitable donations, and 8% were for commercial initiatives, e.g. our partnership for hearing loss prevention with the concert and event organizer abc Production, research projects, sponsoring of community organizations, and other initiatives related to the topic of hearing.

Type of contribution
















Cash contributions










In-kind contributions





Management costs





1 only contributions at Sonova Group level included, does not include contributions at brand level

The total of around 3.3 million CHF comprises 54% in-kind contributions (mostly hearing instruments and cochlear implants), 22% direct cash contributions, 16% management costs (e.g. staff salaries and overheads), and 9% time (e.g. employee volunteering).