Lions Help Develop Low-Cost Hearing Aid
Editor: The Lions Clubs have long served people with hearing loss by providing financial assistance to who can’t afford hearing aids. Now they’re taking that concept one step farther by developing their own low-cost hearing aid.
Thanks to bhNEWS for this story.
The Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF) is helping to develop the world’s finest low-cost hearing aid. The long-range plan is for Lions worldwide to take a leading role in improving the lives of millions of hearing impaired people.
LCIF has approved US$600,000 for the Lions Affordable Hearing Aid Project (AHAP) to design, manufacture and distribute a high-quality, low-cost hearing aid. AHAP is moving forward steadily. A digitally programmable hearing aid already has been developed, a manufacturing and distribution site were established in southern India, successful clinical trials were conducted in the United States and a fulfillment center is planned for New Jersey (USA).
Hearing-impaired people are an overlooked population, especially in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that at least 250 million people have a disabling degree of hearing impairment. The average cost of a hearing aid, US$1,450 in 2000, is prohibitively high for the poor. Only 12 percent of the 6 million hearing aids sold in 2000 were sold in developed countries, which is home to 70 percent of the global population.
AHAP is manufacturing the hearing aids for US$40 to $50. Its price will range from $0 to US$500 depending on a client’s ability to pay. The income realized from sales in wealthier countries will subsidize the cost in poor countries. Lions will be the exclusive distributor of the hearing aid to all Lions’ groups and all U.S. non-profit groups.
Many Lions clubs currently provide either low-cost refurbished hearing aids or high-priced new hearing aids to the deaf in their communities. AHAP will allow Lions to deliver new high-quality hearing aids to those who cannot afford them.
The hearing aids are being made in India at Aurolab, a world leader in manufacturing affordable medical technology. Aurolab developed the low-priced intraocular lens used in Lions’ anti-blindness projects. Aurolab is part of the Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology, initially funded with a US$1.26 million SightFirst grant. The lead manager for the hearing aid project is one of the originators of Aurolab, social entrepreneur David Green of U.S.-based Project Impact.
A pilot project will offer the hearing aid to Lions as a member benefit. If successful in parts of the United States and India, the member benefit could be extended to other regions.