THE PROBLEM: There are over 200 million people with a hearing impairment in Africa. While many people are lucky enough to have hearing aids, keeping them charged is difficult because extreme temperatures quickly drain battery power, so batteries do not last long in very hot climates. Regularly replacing hearing aid batteries is also too costly for many people, so when the batteries run out, many people stop hearing for an extended period of time. Sadly, not being able to hear hinders the learning-ability of many young African students, which can cause them to drop out of school altogether.

 

THE INSIGHT: If we had solar-powered batteries, we would be able to use the sun to our advantage instead of having the its heat drain battery life. A solar-charged battery would also meet the needs of hearing-impaired people in communities without regular access to electricity.

 

THE CHALLENGE: How might we find a cost-efficient way to charge hearing aid batteries instead of regularly buying new batteries; and also to prevent batteries from being drained in hot climates?

 

THE SOLUTION: The “Solar Ear”: the world’s first rechargeable hearing aid battery charger that harnesses the sun’s energy to power the hearing aid battery. The Solar Ear, developed by Deaftronics, last 2 to 3 years — 45-50 times longer than a normal battery which lasts an average of 22 days. The solar-powered charger can be charged by the sun, household light or a cellphone plug.

 

THE IMPACT: More than 2,000 Solar Ear units have been distributed in Zimbabwe, while over 10,000 units have been distributed across Africa. Many young students, such as 17-year-old Tapiwa Mtisi from Zimbabwe, are hearing again. “I was failing in primary school but now that I can hear, I am learning again”, Mtisi says.

 

THE INNOVATOR: Tendekayi Katsiga, from Mutare, Zimbabwe, is the Director of Operations behind Deaftronics and the mastermind of the Solar Ear. For more on the Solar Ear watch this video or visit their Facebook page.

 

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