Solar powered
hearing aids

Submitted by Solar Ear

Solar Ear: Solar powered hearing aids

Watch Solar Ear's submission video

Today, less than 3% of the 624 million people who need a hearing aid can afford one,given a starting price of 1500 Euros. Two-thirds live in developing countries yet less than 12% of all hearing aids sold can be found in these countries. One of the shortcomings, which stops the process is a hearing aid battery. A hearing aid battery costs about 1 Euro and lasts 1 week. This makes it too expensive (over 400 Euros over the life of an aid) and too often a person in a developing country living in a rural setting cannot find a battery. Our workers who are deaf, and or HIV-AIDS positive and or in a wheelchair and with only a grade 9 education, INVENTED, but did not patent the first rechargeable hearing aid battery which costs 1 Euro but lasts 2 to 3 years. To charge this battery they invented a solar powered recharger. This charger can charge over-night our rechargeable hearing aid battery which fits into 90% of ALL BTE hearing aids of our competitors, plus our, FDA, CE approved hearing aids start at a cost of less than 100 Euros. We are able to sell our rechargeable hearing aids, solar charger and rechargeable hearing aid batteries at a price less than people would pay for batteries alone, plus can save over 200,000,000 hearing aid batteries from being thrown out every year. We also transfer our technology to other like minded organizations, creating more jobs for people who are deaf,plus low cost aids for people in other continents in a sustainable professional business platform.

How it benefits society

The philosopher, Wittgenstein said; "My language is the limit to my world." Our goal is to help children before the age of 3 the ability to hear so that they can learn to speak and go to a public school as there are few schools for the deaf in developing countries. We believe that only through education can you break the cycle of poverty. The economic, health, social and educational costs of exclusion in society for people with a disability is much higher than the price of inclusion. People who are deaf, who speak in sign language, their hand-eye co-ordination is better than 95% of people who are oral. We need their special ability to micro-solder the electronic components in our solar charger and hearing aids. We want to show society the ability of people with a disability,so that they will be hired by other companies. Finally 1/3rd of our profits go towards our social mission. We have lowered HIV- AIDS rate in deaf community in Botswana from 38% to 10%, changed public policy in China toward people who are deaf and will have a peace-building mission in Mid East when Muslim, Christian and Jewish people who are deaf will work together manufacturing the Solar Ear products. As we expanded from Botswana, to Brazil to China, each group of workers who are deaf have improved our solar charger. It went from sun only charge, to include household light to include a cell phone connection. Each new operation will be challenged to improve our solar charger or invent a new rechargeable product.

What's unique about it

Our products were invented by people who are deaf for people with a hearing loss. We did not patent any products as our goal is to help as many children as possible to learn to hear so that they can go to a public school. Not having any IP costs enables us to develop new products at a lower cost, and eventually lower selling price.We transfer our technology for free to other organizations provided they run a sustainable business and hire people who are deaf. All organizations then purchase together so the cost of components keeps decreasing as we scale globally. Our transfer of technology program is historic. Most technology transfers are North- South,eg European country to African one. Rarely South-North and never South-South. We ran the first South-South (Botswana to Brazil) deaf to deaf technical training course. This 6-month course, costs over 80,000 Euros and it is the deaf employees from one Solar Ear program who go to the next one, test, select and train the workers who are deaf at the next one.They also speak in different sign languages so the teachers and students must invent a common sign language. We now have 3 Solar Ear programs, Botswana, Brazil, China, and will be opening 3 more, Aboriginal people who are deaf in Canada, peace-building program in Mid-East and one in Pakistan in 2017.The goal is 10 more centers covering duty free trade zone ,e.g. Botswana can ship duty free to 11 SADAC countries, Brazil 7 Mercosur countries. We will cover 60 countries by 2023.

Opportunity to scale

We will need fund and manpower to set up a head office and start to franchise each Solar Ear program. The head office will do the global marketing, global sales,and take advantage of all economies of scale in purchasing. We can also hire a professional team at this head office to find new ways of lowering hearing loss, be updated on latest products, programs, protocols and research, all of which will provide new opportunities. We can run a monitoring and evaluation study which will prove the benefits at all levels, from Solar Ear perspective, its workers who are deaf and the child who receives our low cost rechargeable products. By charging each location a franchise fee based on their purchases, which is more than offset by the cost savings they will enjoy, we will be able to have funds to develop new products, find new partners, participate in global trade shows, and pay in the future to replace all existing dies tools and moulds, plus fund to find new partner organizations. Franchising NGO's and or social B-Corp Solar Ear partner organizations in developing countries will present some challenges. If we receive support, develop the proper franchise model, we can be functioning in 6 to 9 months.

Company/initiative

Solar Ear: Howard Weinstein, Sarah Phiri (woman who is deaf), Tendekayi Kastiga, Brazil

Twenty years ago, in the middle of the night, my 10-year old daughter Sarah, suddenly died of a brain aneurysm.I went back to work the following week, at the plumbing company where I was President, they fired me. They figured I could not make any profits for them. I did a year of psychotherapy but found that the therapist need more help than I did. He was crazy. I started another business but did not enjoy it, eventually selling my shares for $1. Having the skills as a professional manager, I figured, in 2002, I would go as a volunteer to Africa, help women earn a living as women take care of the health and education of their children. I remember my first day, in the the office, where we had no products, people , money and only 4 tables and chairs, there was knock at the door. It was a lady with a young person. The lady told me that her student Sarah, (same name as my daughter) needed a hearing aid. After a 20 second delay I was able to say that Sarah was going to get a hearing aid. The next week, I went to the school for the deaf, to talk to Sarah and the other students who are deaf. They told me about their lives, about being poor and about the stigma of having a disability in their culture. They also told me their hopes and dreams, i.e. getting a meaningful job and being able to afford and find a hearing aid battery. I wrote their hopes and dreams into a sustainable business plan. We were able to raise $250,000. I then went back to the school, hired the young deaf adults, found them a teacher of electronics and then challenged them to develop the products they needed. They then designed, manufacture and now teach their technology plus HIV-AIDS educational programs to other people who are deaf. Today, Sarah is the President of the Solar Ear program in Botswana. See http://solarear.com.br/