HOUSTON (Diya TV) – Mukund Venkatakrishnan, a 16-year-old Indian-American high school student recently presented a low-cost hearing aid he invented after two years of development. The invention garnered him first place at the Kentucky State Science and Engineering Fair.
The device, which can be used with the cheapest pair of headphones available at any store, costs just $60, in a market where the cheapest hearing aids retail for nearly $1,500. The most expensive part of the device is the processor responsible for amplifying volume – about $45. Other parts end up costing about $15.
Venkatakrishnan’s hearing aid is built to first test hearing by playing several different sounds at seven different frequencies through a pair of headphones. The device then programs itself, amplifying sounds based off the test results.
“It eliminates the need for a doctor altogether. It is really, in essence, just amplifiers, just increase the volume based on how much hearing loss you have and it is crazy that they cost USD 1,500 each, when you can do it for USD 60,” Venkatakrishnan said of the device.
He was inspired to create the device after visiting his grandparents in India two years ago. During the trip, he was tasked with helping his grandfather get tested and fitted for hearing aids, and saw first hand how expensive the devices are, and how trying to process can be for elderly people. There are few alternatives available for those who can’t afford the expensive prices, he found, and although luckily there were lots of websites like this one https://wonder-ear.com/blogs/articles/mdhearingaid-review-all-new-models-alternative providing reviews for different types of hearing aids, the selection of affordable hearing aids was still limited. Fortunately, in America, the market benefits from healthy competition, so consumers have the luxury of choice. For example, finding a pair of TV ears is not the ordeal it would be in India.
“Since audiologists are specialists, even finding and getting an appointment with one in India was really hard. And then we got ripped off,” he said.
By the time everything was said and done, he said his grandfather had spent about $500 on his doctor appointment, and another $1,900 on his hearing aids alone. It became apparent that hearing was considered a luxury for some in impoverished nations, something that bothered him very much.
“In India, the median household income is USD 616 a year. If someone in India saves all year without spending a penny, they still can not afford a hearing aid.
“Unlike with traditional hearing aids, if the ear piece gets damaged it is not costly to replace. You just buy another set of ear buds. In its current form, the device is about two inches and looks like a computer processor,” he said.
Since winning the science fair, various foundations have begun reaching out to Venkatakrishnan in an effort to get his hearing aid mass-produced and distributed throughout the world immediately. His plan is to visit his grandfather again this summer, and deliver a new hearing aid.