Social Innovation for the Deaf at the CES

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is billed as the largest social innovation and technology show in the world. It’s a trade show where the latest devices in the world of smart televisions, laptops, apps and gadgets are unveiled. It is also where Siemens showed “Aquaris,” the first truly waterproof hearing aid, which will make a difference to people like Lydia King.

Lydia is a teenager who lives near the ocean. Unfortunately, she used to miss out on a lot of water activities because of her hearing loss. She couldn’t enjoy a day at the beach with friends because the smallest bit of moisture damaged her traditional hearing aid. Then one day, Lydia’s audiologist, told her about Aquaris, a new type of hearing aid. It has been a life-changer for Lydia, who has worn hearing aids since she was a one year-old. Today, she is thrilled to enjoy being near the water.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2004, over 275 million people globally had moderate-to-profound hearing impairment, 80% of them in low- and middle-income countries. In the U.S. one in five is affected by hearing loss. Hearing aids can restrict everyday activities because traditional hearing aids naturally have limitations. Even though modern hearing aids have advanced features that restore near-natural sound, they are still delicate microelectronic devices that are easily damaged in normal day-to-day activity. This causes hearing aid wearers to avoid activities such as gardening, exercising, woodwork, boating and swimming. Many who do engage in these activities stop wearing their hearing aids because of the hassle.

The Aquaris opens up a whole new world for people with hearing loss.  It’s the only social innovation hearing aid to receive a rating for continuous submersion underwater, and is also dustproof and shock-resistant. Hearing aid wearers no longer need to avoid moisture, dust or the risk of damaging their hearing aid. They also work with Bluetooth and other wireless systems, allowing wearers to listen to their iPod, smartphone and other audio devices—even if they are underwater.

Hearing loss affects people in different ways. Over time, it can influence communications and relationships with others in a negative way. If hearing impairment is left untreated, a physical condition may also become a psychological one. That is why it is so important to seek a solution. Hearing aids selectively increase the volume of the sounds. They make soft sounds more audible and easily understood, while keeping moderate or loud sounds at a comfortable listening level. This helps hearing in both noisy and quiet situations.

No hearing aid can solve every hearing problem or restore normal hearing, yet a properly fitted one can improve communication in at least 90% of people with hearing impairment. Unfortunately, production of these social innovation devices meets less than 10 per cent of global needs; in developing countries, fewer than one out of 40 who need a hearing aid have one! There’s much work to be done.

Photo Credit: Siemens

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