Solar-Powered Hearing Aids with Open Source Design

Solar Ear is a Brazilian social business that designs, manufactures and distributes digital hearing aids with rechargeable batteries. All their designs are open-sourced so that their innovations can benefit people around the world. Their batteries cost only $0.50 more than disposable alternatives, but last up to three years, compared to approximately one week for typical disposable batteries. Solar Ear’s batteries are also compatible with 95% of hearing aids currently on the market, thereby greatly reducing the need for expensive and polluting zinc-air batteries.

Through its integrated approach encompassing detection, research, education, innovation, product development and therapy, Solar Ear has developed holistic solutions to hearing loss, particularly for developing countries. Additionally, it employs young deaf people in its manufacturing processes, helping to transform the way society views the skills of people with disabilities.

Why you should care

The World Health Organization estimates that 360 million people suffer from hearing loss globally. In developing countries, approximately 32 million hearing aids are needed annually, yet only around 750,000 are provided. Solar Ear’s approach is designed to meet this gap in supply, as it shares its technology, business model and program protocols for free with like-minded social businesses around the world. It is also developing a smartphone app designed to make screening for hearing loss accessible to millions via their phones.

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