Cost of hearing aids leave many in silent world

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The inflated cost of hearing aids and accessories is making it more difficult for NGOs to meet the needs of those with hearing loss in developing countries, a Canadian social entrepreneur told the Hearing Loss Association of America.

“If any of the major hearing aid companies wanted to produce a low cost aid, they could,”said Howard Weinstein, president of Solar Ear, a company that produces low-cost solar hearing aid solutions for developing countries. “What manufacturers say is that if they make an inexpensive model, audiologists won’t sell it because they will lose their profit. Audiologists, on the other hand, say the manufacturers just won’t provide them with inexpensive aids. Some hearing aid manufacturers even hinder the progress of NGO’s who manufacture and distribute low cost hearing aids.”

There are many challenges for NGOs working in hearing health care in the developing world, not the least of which is the sheer demand for hearing aids.

The World Health Organization estimates that globally some 175 million children (up to age 15 years) suffer from mild or greater hearing loss, an estimated 61 million children from moderate or greater hearing loss and seven million children from severe or profound hearing loss.

There are many roadblocks to buying and distributing hearing aids in developing countries, says Weinstein. “The first problem is the enormous scale of a demand exceeding 300 million and only 9 million hearing aids being manufactured a year,” said Weinstein who founded Solar Ear to combine the power of solar energy with affordable technology to get people hearing again.

Source: Howard Weinstein