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Hearing loss hits poorer countries hard—and the problem’s only getting worse. Innovative, low-cost hearing aids are a rising solution.

A whopping 250 million people around the world experience hearing loss, reports the World Health Organization (WHO), and 80 percent of these hard-of-hearing individuals live in developing nations. Lack of access to immunizations, inadequate resources, and missing knowledge about how to protect hearing all contribute to greater rates of hearing loss.

While many Americans face discrimination at work and lowered self-esteem due to hearing loss, millions of citizens in poorer nations face even worse conditions. In developing nations all over the world, hearing loss can prevent access to work and education completely. Left without work, in an impoverished nation, hard-of-hearing individuals are vulnerable to starvation and disease.

According to WHO, the current hearing aid market could fulfill less than 10 percent of the global need. The situation is even direr in developing nations, where fewer than 1 out of 40 people with hearing loss actually have hearing aids.

However new methods of inexpensive hearing aid design and delivery can help the unique needs of developing nations. Audicus Hearing Aids takes a look at some of these.  By providing the extraordinary gift of hearing, these ingenious solutions have changed lives all over the world.

Low-Cost Hearing Aid Power: Solar Ear

Even if people did get hearing aids, many of them could not afford batteries. To answer this challenge, a Brazilian nongovernmental organization developed Solar Ear. Solar Ear is a rechargeable, low-cost hearing aid. The batteries can be charged with light and last for about a week in between charges.

The batteries can even be used in 90 percent of behind-the-ear models, reports Hearing Health Magazine. Designed with the help of deaf youths in Brazil and Africa, these hearing aids provide low-cost alternatives in 30 different countries.

Nation-tailored Low-Cost Hearing Aids

Many donated hearing aids might be going to waste. Hearing loss comes in different forms, and donated hearing aids generally treat hearing loss more likely to occur in the West. To solve this dilemma, engineer Andrew Carr designed a culturally conscious alternative, reports the Associated Press. These solar-powered hearing aids are geared toward hearing loss in Africa, and they do not have to be worn inside the ear. Instead, the device can be hung on a necklace or attached to a hat. This actually means less conspicuous hearing aids, as many donated hearing aids are designed for Caucasian skin.

SuperEar: Simple, Low-Cost Hearing Aid


The sound amplifier SuperEar simply raises all sounds by 50 decibels. This straightforward and low-cost hearing aid solution was first used by birdwatchers to hear their beloved birdsongs. Today, it is an affordable alternative for hearing loss in developing nations.

Made up of headphones and a microphone device, the SuperEar is not the sleekest solution, but it can help some people. Thanks to a donation from the company, a group of Tibetan refugees in India are sporting this hearing product.

Access to hearing technology is a profound problem in developing and developed nations alike. Even in the US, many residents are still faced with prohibitively expensive hearing aids and no coverage or means to pay for them.

At least in this part of the world, Audicus Hearing Aids’ progressive program aims to address this issue with its affordable hearing aids.

Read more about low-cost hearing aids.

by Patrick Freuler