It is estimated that nearly 1 million children are born with hearing impairments in India annually.
This statistic backed up with a personal experience inspired today’s #womaninstemwednesdaycrush to want to tackle and solve the problem.
Neeti Kailus is the co-founder and former director of Soham Innovation Lab, an organization that aims to improve the ‘health and incomes of people living in resource poor setting.’ (Soham Innovation Lab Website)
As a product design student, Neeti had always enjoyed the whole process of designing for an impact. ~
Her interest in hearing impairment was sparked when she was in New Delhi and she met a boy that had profound hearing loss. He was four years old and it was already too late to save his speech. Coupled up with her personal experience with her childhood friend who faced prejudice and missed out on several opportunities because of having a hearing impairment, Neeti together with her husband set out to form Soham Innovation Lab in 2012.
In their research, they found that it is crucial for hearing loss to be detected in a child before six months or a year and if not, the child would lose their speech as well. ~
They also realized that the reason most hearing impairments were not detected early was due to the lack of technology and skilled personnel in most of the health clinics. In addition, for those that did have the equipment, the cost of the test was too expensive. ~
Their solution was in the form of a device that is shaped like a headband. It works by measuring the infant’s auditory brainstem response. It is also battery operated and non-invasive which means that it can be carried out in a noisy environment which was crucial as the then current hearing impairment equipment could only be operated in quiet environments and this is far from the reality with most health clinics in India. They also ensured that the equipment would be inexpensive and portable hence it can be used anywhere.
As of 2016, their device has been installed in five hospitals and 175 successful tests had been conducted. Neeti was also recognized by Rolex as a young laureate in science and health in India in 2014.