The Power of Crowdsourcing Knowledge Through Wikipedia – The Wiki4WorldHearingDay2019 Experience

Posted on by Thais C. Morata, John P. Sadowski, Chuck Kardous, Jennifer Dawson, John Eichwald, Robert W. Keith and Lisa Hunter

No matter the country, it can take years for those who suffer from hearing difficulties to seek care. Once they do, there is a low rate of follow-up on recommended interventions, particularly for hearing aids (Wilson et al., 2017; WHO, 2017). Unaddressed hearing loss is a serious and costly problem around the world. This motivated the World Health Organization to organize the annual World Hearing Day (WHD) campaign which takes place every March 3rd. The goal of the campaign is “to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.”

Collectively, health-related articles on Wikipedia are read more than 150 million times per month (Heilman et al., 2011). Health information in Wikipedia can be a significant and trusted resource particularly in countries where access to care is scarce (Shafee et al., 2017; NYT, 2014). Because Wikipedia is a popular resource and an important mechanism to share research findings with the public, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) adopted a multi-component strategy to improve the health content shared on Wikipedia (see related NIOSH Science Blog). This approach encourages and facilitates university programs to train students to contribute high-quality evidence-based hearing content to Wikipedia as part of their class assignments (see another related NIOSH Science Blog). Numerous courses have focused specifically on hearing science such as the ongoing University of Cincinnati Noise and Hearing* course.

For World Hearing Day 2019, NIOSH took the lead in designing the online event Wiki4WorldHearingDay2019, to facilitate the improvement of Wikipedia content related to hearing, hearing health services, hearing testing, and preventive and treatment interventions. The platform (translated into 15 languages) provided guidance and invited anyone with access to a computer and the internet to join. Information was provided on how to improve Wikipedia articles including a list of existing Wikipedia articles pertaining to hearing. Information on how to translate Wikipedia articles with suggestions for hearing-related articles to be translated were also included. In addition, NIOSH organized a meet-up in Cincinnati, Ohio in collaboration with Hear in Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The meet-up included presentations related to the campaign, resources on where to find freely licensed sources of hearing information, and basic training on how to edit Wikipedia. Remote participants included 17 groups located in the U.S., Brazil and Canada. A recording is available here.

Several institutions joined in the event by either promoting it or contributing content to Wikipedia, including the National Center for Environmental Health, the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, the Hearing Center of Excellence, the French National Research and Safety Institute for the Prevention of Occupational Accidents, the International Society of Audiology, the Acoustical Society of America, the American Academy of Audiology, and Hear in Cincinnati.  In addition, participants from Cochrane and its Ear, Nose and Throat Review Group participated, improving the evidence base of Wikipedia articles related to hearing loss, tinnitus, otitis media and noise-induced hearing loss using evidence from recent Cochrane Reviews. University programs in the US, Canada, UK, Brazil, and South Africa contributed expert content to Wikipedia articles in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish.

CDC researchers significantly expanded the Wikipedia article Universal newborn hearing screening, which was featured in the main Wikipedia page’s “Did you know? section on March 13. They also created a new article on Hearing protection fit-testing which was also featured in the “Did you know?” section on March 26.

The Wikimedia outreach dashboard* allows anyone to monitor contributions and reach, with great level of detail and accuracy. Tracking took place between January 21, 2019 and March 31, 2019, and revealed that 74,000 words were contributed to 90 existing and seven new Wikipedia articles and 21 images were donated to the open access repository WikiCommons. The articles received more than 2.3 million views during the tracking period. As articles were edited at different times during the campaign, there was a longer time-period for tracking articles edited earlier in the campaign.


The hearing topics that attracted the most attention were:

Tinnitus 340,747
Meniere’s disease 138,962
Otitis media 85,537
Hearing loss 55,661
Auditory processing disorder 40,372


The transparent approach to editing Wikipedia and improving articles provided opportunities for experts to address concerns they might have over participation in this event. The heightened level of review that takes place on each Wikipedia health-related article is only possible due to the generous dedication of Wikipedia editors, who are often themselves health professionals and experts, and collaborative ventures with scientific associations and agencies (Shafee et al., 2017).

Wiki4WorldHearingDay2019 was a great success and we encourage other organizations and institutions to consider this approach. The breadth and accuracy of the Wikipedia coverage in medical science varies widely. We see campaigns like this as unique opportunities to make hearing content one of the better-developed areas within Wikipedia, while providing quality information to everyone in the world- where they are actually looking for it.

Let us know if you have any questions or want to join this effort in some capacity by sending a comment to this Blog.

Thais Morata, PhD, is a research audiologist in the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology. She is coordinator of the National Occupational Research Agenda Manufacturing Sector Council.

John P. Sadowski, PhD, is the Wikipedian-in-Residence at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

CAPT Chucri (Chuck) A. Kardous, MS, PE, is a research engineer with the NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology.

Jennifer Dawson, PhD, Wikipedia Consultant for Cochrane, Canada.

John Eichwald, MA, is a research audiologist of the Office of Science, of the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Robert W. Keith, PhD, is an Emeritus Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Cincinnati.

Lisa Hunter, PhD, is the scientific director for Audiology in the Communication Sciences Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

*Links may not work in Explorer


Heilman JM, Kemmann E, Bonert M, et al. Wikipedia: a key tool for global public health promotion. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13(1):e14. Published 2011 Jan 31. doi:10.2196/jmir.1589
New York Times, 2014. Wikipedia is emerging as trusted internet source for information on Ebola. October 26, 2014. Accessed April 4, 2019.
Shafee T, Masukume G, Kipersztok L, et al. Evolution of Wikipedia’s medical content: past, present and future. J Epidemiol Community Health 2017;71:1122-1129.

WHO, Global costs of unaddressed hearing loss and cost-effectiveness of interventions. World Health Organization, Geneva (2017, Accessed April 2, 2019.Wilson BS, Tucci DL, Merson MH, O’Donoghue EL. Global hearing health care: new findings and perspectives. Lancet, 390 (2017), pp. 2503-2515.

Posted on by Thais C. Morata, John P. Sadowski, Chuck Kardous, Jennifer Dawson, John Eichwald, Robert W. Keith and Lisa Hunter

2 comments on “The Power of Crowdsourcing Knowledge Through Wikipedia – The Wiki4WorldHearingDay2019 Experience”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Knowledge regarding various topics, health issues etc. is very important. Through internet, one can get answers to their health related doubts and Wikipedia plays a very important role in this. Thanks for telling us about these hearing loss and ear disease. Keep sharing!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated site and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

Page last reviewed: April 19, 2019
Page last updated: April 19, 2019