Developing Countries and Solar Powered Hearing Aids

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Blog-post, Community, Hearing Aid Technology, Hearing Aids

Developing Countries and Solar Powered Hearing Aids
Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
Latest posts by Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D. (see all)

Developing Countries and Solar Powered Hearing Aids

Have you ever interacted with a child with hearing loss? Did your heart ache, knowing they weren’t developing language and communication the same way as the other kids? If this were your own child, you have had their hearing tested and had them fitted for hearing aid. Hearing aids change the lives for those who experience hearing loss. But what would you do if it was someone else’s child, or a child from a poor family in another country? Grace O’Brien, a freshman college student at Stanford University, decided to do something about this.

Ears for Years

grace-obrein-ears-for-years

Image courtesy of EarsforYears.org

Grace O’Brien, just 18 years old, has a huge heart for children with hearing loss. She started volunteering with hard of hearing children in 2012, at a summer theatre camp for children who were deaf or hard of hearing. At the camp she saw the impact of hearing aids in the children’s lives, how it gave them the ability to interact with the people and things around them in a natural way.

O’Brien couldn’t turn a blind eye to hearing loss, so her solution was to found Ears for Years, a nonprofit organization that fits children in developing countries with hearing aids. Ears for Years is all about making hearing aids more accessible, particularly for children and families who can’t afford them. Restoring hearing for these children is a way for them to escape from poverty and build a future for themselves. “It’s giving them the chance to get a valid education and I think that’s really amazing,” says O’Brien.

Solar-Powered Hearing Aids

Ears for Years is accomplishing this by partnering with Solar Ear, a company in Brazil producing solar-powered, low-cost hearing aids, with a price tag of only $100 per set. Designed with children in mind, they are lightweight and easy to use. The rechargeable batteries in the hearing aids last around three years, much longer than the average hearing aid. The hearing aids take around two hours to charge using energy from the sun or from a lightbulb, and this is life-changing for families who can’t afford the high cost of hearing aid batteries.

Who is Ears for Years Reaching?

The World Health Organization reports that 32 million children worldwide have hearing loss, and many of these are in impoverished families in developing countries. Production of hearing aids does not match this need, and according to Forbes, production levels meet less than 10% of the global need for hearing aids!

O’Brien hopes to change that. Ears for Years provides sustainable, environmentally friendly hearing to children around the world so they can have an education, a job, and a future. So far, Ears for Years has distributed hearing aids in five countries, including Mexico, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Ears for Years is targeting children under the age of 3, fitting them with hearing aids while they are still developing language. This gives them the power to develop social and communication skills naturally and easily. This means positive outcomes for their physical, mental, and emotional health. Fitting children young also means they can attend public schools, and get an education. In developing countries, deaf children usually stay home from school, since they can’t function in a normal school setting and there are few or no schools for deaf children, and certainly none that are affordable to low-income families. Giving them hearing aids and helping them get an education has the power to change not only their life, but the lives of the whole family.

Now attending Stanford University, O’Brien continues to work tirelessly with Ears for Years to provide hearing to children around the world. Awarded a Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes in 2015, she has helped hundreds of children. She hopes to reach even more children this year, and has launched a GoFundMe campaign. If you’d like to find out more, or donate to her organization, visit here to get involved.

If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, or if you believe your loved one is experiencing hearing loss, contact us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor today. There is no reason to live with hearing loss! Our team is here to support to you.

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