Hearing loss is an invisible disability that affects 1.3 million people. In developing countries, fewer than 1% of people have access to hearing aids due to their high price and the lack of specialists to fit the hearing aids. World Wide Hearing is developing the Remote Audiology System, an open-access platform that enables local hearing technicians in lower-income countries to deliver last-mile hearing care services, manage their patients’ files and consult with audiologists around the world.
@wwhearing launches world’s first open-access platform for frontline hearing technicians in low-income countries to help children get hearing care.
What problem are you trying to solve?
1.3 billion people suffer from hearing loss, of whom 34 million are children, making it the world’s 4th-most common impairment (WHO, 2017). Undetected hearing loss in children, even mild hearing loss, can delay the development of speech and language skills and limit school performance.
80% of people diagnosed with hearing loss live in developing countries. Only 3% of people living in lower and middle-income countries (LMIC) who need a hearing aid, have one. This is due to the lack of trained professionals, significant physical distances between patients and the nearest specialist, and lack of affordability (average of USD $3,000 per hearing aid).
An untreated hearing has an annual global cost of $750 billion. Interventions to prevent, identify and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals. Yet, countries like Guatemala only have one audiologist for the entire country; Honduras has none.
What is your solution to this problem?
World Wide Hearing, winner of the Google Disability Impact Challenge, is developing the world’s first open-access platform, harnessing the internet, so that frontline hearing technicians can be autonomous and visit poor, rural communities. Our goal is to make distance disappear so children with hearing loss living in rural communities have access to hearing care.
The Remote Audiology System enables frontline technicians to a) capture patient data, b) provide immediate hearing interventions, c) do away with paper forms and checklists, d) connect to a virtual network linking them to specialists and audiologists from around the world, bringing care and expert advice to areas without clinics, and e) centralize data streamlining appointment scheduling; making frontline workers more efficient.
The solution will ensure that children with hearing loss receive affordable hearing aids. We enable them to break free from social isolation, succeed in school and reach their full potential.
What is your latest update on your innovation?
World Wide Hearing hired tech developers specialized in healthcare mobile solutions to scope and define the specs for the solution as well as the corresponding platform architecture and software development priorities.
Over the coming four months, World Wide Hearing will develop the product, using an agile methodology where user feedback will be gathered in an interactive way to ensure the solution is adapted to end-users’ needs. Users will be involved from different countries and backgrounds. The final version will be tested in the field and validated at a pilot level in Guatemala, Philippines and Peru.
In the coming year, World Wide Hearing will leverage its networks and allies and mobilize key stakeholders to encourage testing and adoption. User feedback will be gathered to continuously improve the application and extend the solution as seen fit.