With Solar Ear, the world is no more a mere silence for the deaf now
Tendekayi Katsiga, an electronics technician, launched his company Deaftronics in Botswana, which is a manufacturer of the world’s first solar-powered hearing aids. The journey began when Katsiga met a 15 year old deaf boy Johnny with a hearing aid which was not functioning, because he couldn’t afford the batteries. This incident left a deep impression on Katsiga and he thought that the solution could come from a source that was abundant and free-the sun.
In 2009, he formed Deaftronics and was joined by his former colleagues, who were hearing impaired themselves. With technical assistance from Godisa Technologies Trust, he began designing and manufacturing the world’s first solar-powered hearing aids. The product is called as the Solar Ear, which charges 3 batteries at once, and each battery charge lasts for 5 days.
Most of the inputs to build the product came from other hearing impaired folks. Our unit cost USD 200 that includes the hearing aid, batteries and the charger compared to other products in the market that cost USD 1000. Solar Ear comes with a warranty for a year, the batteries last 2-3 years and we also have after sales service, says Katsiga.
The first recipient of the Solar Ear was none other than Johnny, whose life has changed for the better and who wish to be a doctor and help other hearing impaired people. Deaftronics has three major goals-to create affordable products for the deaf, to employ hearing impaired people, and create awareness about the hearing impaired and also train them so that they can integrate with the society.
Though there are many campaigns to create HIV awareness, none was for the deaf. So Katsiga produced HIV awareness campaigns for deaf. After this, the incidence of HIV/AIDS among the deaf reduced from 38% to 9% between 2009 and 2013. They also teach sign language to the bank-tellers, so that they can communicate with the deaf.
Till now Deaftronics has sold around 10,000 units of Solar ear in 40 African countries and positively impacted the lives of 3,000 children. Their efforts have been well recognized and rewarded by governments of many African countries. Deaftronics has opened branch in Aman, Jordan and gradually penetrating into East and West Africa. They will be launching operations in India this year through a partner farm called Sunona Trust. Currently Katsiga is working on two other projects that he’s very excited about. One is with Microsoft to develop applications that will help measure hearing loss through smart phones and the other is to charge cell phones using an USB fitted on the hearing aids.
We just hope and pray that this initiative started by Katsiga reach out to all those who are still living in a world of silence.