Tendekayi Katsiga has written his name in the histroy books by inventing the world’s first solar powered hearing aid. The electronics enthusiast sits at the helm of Deaftronics which has made serious inroads in providing solutions for the hearing impaired through cutting edge innovatipons.
Our enterprising Person of the Week co-founded the Deaftronics project with his Motswana friend, Sarah Phiri who has a hearing impairment. The idea was borne after realisation that the majority of battery powered hearing aids that were donated in Africa barely lasted over a month.
“We strive to empower hearing impaired people through creation of employment in our work space. Our team designed the solar powered hearing aids as a solution that applies in the local context and also carrying global relevance. Most of the batteries to replace other hearing aids were not readily available and very expensive causing users to dump the devices. This prompted us to come up with a solution,” said Katsiga.
“We designed the solar powered hearing aid which recharges the batteries using the sun. Most of our beneficiaries are children born with hearing impairments. Our products enable a child to acquire hearing skills and develop speech therefore presenting them with an opportunity to attend school. We believe that only through education we can break the cycle of poverty.”
Tendekayi’s innovation in raising hearing loss awareness and solutions runs deeper than business. He received his training in North America, Africa and Europe and has travelled the world preaching the gospel on hearing loss awareness.
The social plight of the people affected, especially children and the massive economic implications on mainly strained communities motivated him to find a sustainable solution.
“Around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss and 34 million of these are children. It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss and it is important to note that 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes,” said Katsiga.
“At least 1.1 billion young people aged between 12–35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings. Unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion and current estimates suggest an 83% gap in hearing aid need and use, that is to say, only 17% of those who could benefit from use of a hearing aid actually use one. Considering the statistics, my innovation and concerted efforts can only make a profound impact to ensure that positive change is achieved in the world.”
Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing.
Tendekayi Katsiga notes that people with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support. Those were some of the other driving factors behind the breakthrough of Deaftronics.
“After designing the solar powered hearing aid, we could not push volumes in our target market since majority of Africans could not afford to pay for the hearing aids and batteries. Our success came when a funding partner in the form of UNICEF through Mercy Corps purchased our products to distribute around Africa. The single engagement boosted my company financially fueling us to push the endeavor around the globe,” he added.
Tendekayi is pleased with the massive impact Deaftronics has had in aiding a cause dear to his heart and has upped the innovations with a mobile application called mDREET.
The application allows micro entrepreneurs to conduct full hearing test through use of an android device and sound proof calibrated headphones. Once hearing loss is diagnosed, the application suggests the best suitable hearing aid suitable for the hearing loss.
We have managed to send 10 000 children to school using solar powered hearing aids. We have also created employment for more than 45 hearing impaired people in our work space in Botswana, South Africa, Brazil and Jordan .
Tendekayi’s work has amassed more than 20 national and international awards among them Builders of Africa’s Future Award in Silicon Valley USA 2020, Johnson & Johnson Africa Innovation Challenge Award 2019, South African Designers Awards (DISA) and has been featured in the Newsweek magazine, National Geographic, BBC , Wired Tech Magazine in Japan and Smart Planet among others.
He is a highly motivated entrepreneur and at one time undertook a ship voyage for 108 days sailing to 13 countries in 5 continents under the Unreasonable at Sea experiment in global entrepreneurship, design-thinking, and education, designed to scale-up effective technological solutions to the greatest challenges of our time.