Solar Ear Hearing Technology: Changing Lives Worldwide One Hearing Aid At A Time
A Brazilian foundation (Instituto CEFAC), and a several other organizations and people, including deaf youths from an organization in Africa, have united to produce, manufacture, and distribute a dynamic new invention- the Solar Ear hearing aid. The idea for Solar Ear came about when volunteers decided to confront the problem of hearing aid use (or lack thereof) in international impoverished areas, especially in rural sub-Saharan Africa. There, international organizations give out thousands of hearing aids, which are typically rendered useless after the first week or two once the battery runs out. Why? Hearing aid batteries typically cost about a dollar, but in many of those countries, the average salary is a dollar a day or less. In these same countries, the purchase of hearing aid technology is generally out of the question, considering that most hearing aid prices are well over a year’s pay in those places. These factors work to a disadvantage for many people in developing countries, because those with hearing loss or other hearing issues are often wrongfully considered “deaf” and are basically excommunicated from going to school or working general society, especially in places where there is no sign language, special education for the hard of hearing, or proper medical treatment.
This is where Howard Weinstein comes in. In the early 2000’s, Mr. Weinstein, the former President of a large corporation in Canada, traveled to Botswana as part of a volunteer group while (in his words) “searching for himself” after his daughter’s death, but ended up staying in the country on a mission to produce affordable hearing aids for Africans (although he knew nothing about audiology at the time- Mr. Weinstein often remarks that he “didn’t know a decibel from Tinkerbell”). After hypothesizing that the sun is the one uniting factor in most developing countries, he had the idea of creating a low-cost, durable, solar-powered, rechargeable digital hearing aid, which would be compactly and sturdily packaged. To make a long story short, Mr. Weinstein successfully used his impeccable networking ability, as well as his preexisting connections in Canada and the world over to procure funding, finance research and development, and finally produce a highly “green” $100 rechargeable digital hearing aid and solar-powered charging station (comparatively, most hearing aids generally start around $500), that works with batteries that last for two years and cost $1 each.
If you fast-forward just a few years to the present, Howard Weinstein’s brainchild has come a long way. A second-generation Solar Ear is in the works, and SolarEar, the umbrella company created by Weinstein to distribute the solar-powered hearing aid worldwide, now has 3 subsidiaries, which have distributed tens of thousands of Solar Aid batteries, chargers and hearing aids- GODISA in Botswana, which produces hearing aids for Africa, SolarEar in Brazil, which produces Hearing Aids for Brazil and Latin America, and the newest venture, a subsidiary in Jordan, which is operated jointly by Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli adults, and produces hearing aids for the Middle East. More facilities are planned to launch soon in China and India. All of SolarEar’s corporate and production facilities are mostly staffed by the deaf (who would probably not have a chance to work elsewhere), and Mr. Weinstein deliberately never patented any of the Solar Ear technologies, so competitors and other organizations can attempt to produce a better version for the good of the world. There is definitely a large enough market for the Solar Ear- since according to statistics published by the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 278 million people worldwide are affected by moderate to severe hearing loss, two-thirds of these people live in developing countries, and most of them would greatly benefit from hearing aids.
If you are one of the estimated 27 million people in the US affected by hearing loss, or if you haven’t had your hearing checked recently, then now is the time to know the status of your hearing; just as if you would visit an ophthalmologist if you weren’t seeing properly, and glasses and/or surgery could correct your condition and make life a lot more enjoyable, a visit to the audiologist can help improve your life drastically- possibly even more than you could imagine. If you are in South Florida, then there is no better place to visit for this than the experts at New Generation Hearing Centers in Miami- why not call your audiologist and make an appointment today?