29 June 2010

Solar-powered hearing aids

In Botswana, an NGO project is producing hearing aids for the hard of hearing in developing countries. The apparatus also includes a small recharger, in which the batteries can be recharged using the suns rays. Production of the hearing aids started as a small project, but has grown so large that the hearing aids can now be purchased in 31 developing countries.

The WHO estimate that there is a lack of as many as 30 million hearing aids in developing countries. Most of the hearing impaired in these countries do not have access to modern hearing technology. That includes both getting the apparatus and buying the batteries. Both parts can be difficult to find, and for many the prices are often too high. According to the WHO, eighty percent of hearing impaired people live in low- and middle-income countries where fewer than one in 40 people who need hearing aids have them.

Ready to go in two hours

The special solar-powered hearing aids are behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. The apparatus or the extra batteries can be placed in the solar-powered recharger, and in two hours the hearing aid is ready to once more give sound to its user. In this way the batteries can be reused for up to three years, and the lightweight recharger is small enough to be carried in a pocket.

An NGO project

Production of the apparatus started as an NGO project in Botswana. The employees are hearing-impaired who, because mastering sign language takes acute hand-eye coordination, are well suited to the fine soldering and microelectronics that go into making hearing aids.

Source: WHO, www.healthyhearing.com

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