There is no reason a hearing-impaired child should not be able to speak—the secret is in early diagnosis and expert help. A young designer from Chennai is trying to ensure just that. Neeti Kailas, 29, designed a hearing screening device that she believes will bring “innovative, affordable health care” to hospitals across India. The device has the potential to improve the quality of life for hearing-impaired babies as early detection can mean early treatment and prevention of speech loss.
For her work, Kailas has been recognised as a 2014 Young Laureate by the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and has been rewarded with a prize money of 50,000 Swiss Francs (Rs 33 lakh). The Young Laureates programme is meant to award grants to entrepreneurs under 30.
Kailas co-founded the Sohum Innovation Lab as a home for her designs, with this first project focusing on increasing awareness about the importance of hearing screening, enabling technology to conduct screenings, and ensuring aftercare for babies who need help. This includes a calendar that ensures mothers will demand hearing screenings (along with other essential development milestones), a headband electrode system that plugs into hardware devices and tests for hearing impairment, and a system that sends the results of the tests to a network of hearing specialists.
“Most peope don’t know that hearing-impaired individuals don’t have to lose their speech,” says Kailas. The international jury for the awards included media mogul Ronnie Screwvala, who says Kailas’s idea is an example of “entrepreneurship meets innovation”.
Kailas is aiming to penetrate the market and her big dream is that every baby born in India each year should be screened for hearing.
What is her next step? Finalise the design, build a mobile app and ramp up sales to reach doctors, hospitals and babies across the country.
An innovator to watch out for, Kailas believes in a simple, powerful mantra: “Product design is about problem solving.”