Affordable app-based hearing aid can benefit poor children in India



An Indian Institute of Science (IISc) study has produced an economical prototype for a phone-based hearing aid complete with therapy, aimed at helping children with hearing loss.

The cost of the new device is one of its key advantages; at INR 5000 (around 64 euros), it could mean parents paying one-fifth of the current cheapest devices in India, which retail at just under INR 25,000. The hearing aid connects via Bluetooth to a multilingual smartphone application that switches between 'hearing aid' and 'therapy' modes, providing child users with audio clips for recognition and performance evaluation to help rehabilitation.

The researchers behind this project at the Bengaluru science centre are now looking for partnerships to speed up development, find funding for clinical testing, and crowdfund translation of more languages for the app. Lead researcher, Dr. Manish Ahora, from UTSAAH Lab at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM), IISc, points out that while the device and app are designed for a country of extensive poverty and limited healthcare resources, "the application is not meant to be a replacement for existing therapists but to augment their reach and their effectiveness."

As the study progresses, researchers are working on integrating different sounds to the app, while attempting to incorporate a recording platform so that parents and carers can capture sonic references from children's actual surroundings.