Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

What is the name of your organization?


What is the name of your solution?


Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Transformational experience of selecting and wearing an amplification device to better protect the ears with respect for a person’s individuality

What specific problem are you solving?

Older and younger Americans who have hearing loss and who are at a high risk of hearing loss, feel powerless and vulnerable at the audiology/ENT office after getting a hearing test when they find out that they need hearing aids because they do not look forward to the experience of wearing or getting hearing aids. To deal with this, older and younger Americans, currently settle for over the counter, costco brand, and expensive invisible Oticon hearing aids. Despite this they continue to limit their use of their hearing aids, lose their hearing aids, delay getting hearing aids in a timely manner, or avoid getting hearing aids all of which is contributing to worsening irreversible hearing loss.

There is a perpetuating cycle of hearing loss, delay in getting hearing aids, problems with hearing aids resulting in decreased use, and further decline in hearing with lack of prevention/precaution. Over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices. According to the HLAA, people with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help. If they continue to experience hearing loss, they can become homebound, depressed, and isolated from the rest of society.  

The current hearing aids on the market do not offer options for people to express their individuality for user empowerment. The Oticon hearing aids endorse a sleek, invisible, and camouflaged look all of which further adds to the poor customer experience and stigma that hearing aids need to be ‘hidden.’ Instead, they should be showcased similar to a walking cane that looks like a baseball bat. People continue to feel embarrassed to wear hearing aids. Starkey’s custom options are mainly for better fit for the person and although this is essential for hearing aid use, it is not evoking emotion and user interest in wearing hearing aids. The options for children are particularly limited. Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them. Overall, this is a high frequency, severe problem. It is estimated that by 2050 over 700 million people will have disabling hearing loss.

What is your solution?

The solution explores possibilities of making the experience of wearing hearing aids comparable to a work of ‘art.’ Rather than filling in the lines or ‘gap in hearing’ with gray, we can add some more color. Each individual will use the power of AI to create and design. They can be allowed to tailor their individual amplification device to their personal style and values. Since hearing aids are something that you ‘wear’ they should be better able to express your individuality eg. a walking cane that resembles a sport’s bat empowers the older patient. Expressions of yourself can be in art. This is particularly useful to both young and old people and evokes a powerful emotion. 

To evoke further emotions such as positivity, an exploration with ‘family’ such as grandkids to help select a hearing aid for the grandparents can make the entire experience even more powerful. There needs to be a serene environment with simple touch screen technology used to facilitate easier selection by both children and older adults. My vision for an in-person store experience is inspired by the “oceanic-exploration” theme, in which watching fish in the tank is stress-relieving. Everyone wants to see the fish tank each time they visit. To explain hearing loss to children eg. damaged hair cells can have a display of one of those underwater creatures ‘sea anemone’ as hair cells. They will ask lots of questions, which evokes curiosity and attention. Attention leads to more users in a cost-effective way. This theme will appeal to all ages, and there will be less age-associated stigma with getting a hearing aid. It is a “must-have” service that can be improved. 

With the experience of purchasing hearing aids, we can offer multiple services all in one place, including hearing loss prevention educational experience to avoid “irreversible damage.” Especially when buying hearing aids, this is a good time to advocate. 

In addition to the improved experience of hearing aid selection and a personally crafted hearing aid, AI can also be used to improve amplification technology. Self-cleaning hearing aids using lotus technology can increase its lifespan, making it more cost-effective and hygienic. This will break the cycle of recurrent cerumen impaction leading to clogged ear feeling and temporary hearing loss from wearing hearing aids. There can also be 2in1, amplification and noise protection, including an embedded safety feature to adjust the volume on the hearing aids to make sure it is not damaging the ears. To decrease background noise during restaurants, better “tele-coil” technology is needed. Can program control of antenna radiation pattern, direction-of-arrival estimation, and adaptive steering of its beam to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. GPS can facilitate better user navigation, and wifi allows for connection to S&L programs to improve communication skills in autism patients. There can be an option for musicians to wear amplification that both protect their ears and help while performing. We can learn from musicians on how to use soft music to better relieve tinnitus. Craftfully, we can improve user-experience.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

My goal is to meaningfully improve the lives of Americans with hearing loss and high risk of getting hearing loss to serve the community as a whole. The patient will be better able to hear, express their individuality, and function within society. If there is more interest in wearing the hearing aid and there are fewer problems associated with the hearing aid (eg. clogged ear, abnormal fitting, and lack of clarity) then there will be less wait time at the doctor’s office leading to more efficient care. The ENT will see more patients and can prescribe more hearing aids in a timely manner, which will prevent people in the community from developing irreversible hearing loss to the severity that they cannot hear their grandkids. Speech and language therapists and audiologists will be able to help patients more efficiently. There will be fewer injuries caused by hearing loss resulting in fewer hospital admission. The Insurance Company will benefit if the patients seek care and will decrease the burden of costs on the healthcare system. This product will promote a sense of more safety at the workplace and decrease workman’s comp cases. There will be better eduction for children if they feel empowered to wear hearing aids in school. In addition, this product will lead to improved outcomes for special-needs children who have autism and down's syndrome. 

It is very important to give hearing aids to the patients in the nursing homes. Humanistic care for these patients is essential - through musical therapy. I noticed that this is even more valuable than the disco light therapy because the patients cannot always turn towards the light but they can certainly hear the music. There is profound significance of hearing aids in patients who are very sick, on ventilators, or paralyzed and cannot respond eg. stroke patients and if they cannot hear then they cannot benefit from musical therapy. All patients in nursing home of all cognitive abilities should be checked for hearing loss and provided hearing aids because music therapy can be the #1 best opportunity for healing. Also it is sometimes hard to tell if the patient is in pain and music can help alleviate suffering. 

Additionally, it is important to screen for hearing loss in the hospital especially in older patients who have multiple co-morbidities and are vulnerable to experiencing delirium in hospital. 

Moreover, hearing loss is invisible in the homeless patient population. Homeless people face extra stigma and do not always get the care they need. The reason this patient population needs to be addressed is because we need to ‘empower’ them since they are an important part of society. 

Society also needs to overcome the thought process that hearing aids are for older people. We need a new brand that advertises hearing aids for young people/children and supplies hearing aids to ALL ages. And for every 10 hearing aids bought, we will donate one to a child. Giving back to the community and paying it forward promotes well-being. 

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Grateful for the opportunity to serve my community. My goal is to take care of and protect vulnerable patient populations. Listening to the patient is of utmost importance, particularly their pain points, in order to find the best suited solution to address their needs. By listening to the patients we can find out how to help them more compassionately because they will be more likely to share their problems. It is not always easy for the patient to explain due to various barriers to communication that exist in the medical workplace. Many patients have anxiety, cultural differences, disabilities, and vulnerabilities. What stands out to me the most is that patients should never lose their voice. 

I want to give voice to the vulnerable patient populations. My passion comes from the unforgettable patients who I had the opportunity to learn from during my clinical experience while volunteering, working, and studying abroad. In particular, I want to improve outcomes for the marginalized patient population in the nursing home and rehabilitation centers after realizing their numerous challenges and barriers. It is hard for patients who have barriers to communication to advocate for themselves, and I feel that it is necessary to stand up for them. 

An important barrier to communication that makes life particularly more challenging is hearing loss. In children, this negatively impacts their speech and language development and delays their learning in school.  I feel strongly connected to helping students in school succeed, particularly those with disabilities. I am curious about learning how to help the youngest ones who cannot yet communicate that they have hearing loss because I think this can also help us find better ways to evaluate hearing loss in patients who are critically ill on ventilators and have limited communication in nursing homes. Similarly, in older adults, hearing loss greatly disconnects them from society and takes away their independence. Throughout my life thus far I have made great effort to better relate to and understand older people, starting with the community at my temple where I sing. A powerful way to connect with others is through music, which can lead to healing and great strides in society. This is where I got the idea to empower vulnerable patient populations through music and protect their hearing. 

Empowering the patient is of utmost significance and is the main reason behind this innovation. The patients should have more voice and control over their health. Every aspect of the solution is inspired from listening to the pain points from each patient and family who I had encountered during the clinic. For example, I tried to make an analogy comparing sea anemones to hair cells in the organ of corti for the 5 year old foster child who wanted to better understand the ear. It is with great respect to the patient that I hope this solution meaningfully, better serves their needs.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

  • Developing and refining models that use high-quality data to predict and personalize a person’s future health risks with plans to prevent or reduce these risks.
  • Other

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Jericho, NY, USA

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model that is rolled out in one or more communities

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. delivery, logistics, expanding client base)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Pooja Buttan

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

Reducing anxiety is very important. Going to the doctor and finding out that you have hearing loss is life-changing. Patients start thinking about all of their limitations, and this product/service should be able to change that. There needs to be calming music such as “oceanic music” to reduce anxiety. This can also help patients with Tinnitus due to the presence of a calming background sound to mask the tinnitus. Many older people do not know how to order hearing aids online or use the app to take an online audiology test. This symbol of this solution is the 'Dolphin' and the splash represents change to present a 'new, majestic way of hearing.' Solution stands for showcasability, independence, and that 'life can be different'

There needs to be “emotion” associated with the experience. What emotion does this evoke? a) GRANDKIDS - Being able to hear your grandkids is an unparalleled joy b) SAFETY - when they are stuck in a vital situation where they cannot hear and feel uneasy

There has to be a unique solution with how to communicate with people at the store who need hearing aids. To ensure that they can hear during the customer service experience, we need to offer multiple options to accommodate for various levels of hearing loss. It is very important to separate the people in the store based on their different levels of hearing loss eg. three different floors in the store similar to womens, kids, mens. Eg. All children and older adults who have severe hearing loss should be together on the same floor so that age groups are not separated. This will allow for smooth transition and appropriate accommodations for people based on their needs. Patients with severe hearing loss should be on the first floor, since they are more likely to be older and have mobility impairments. In order to accommodate for non-tech savvy audience everything should be “touch screen” 

Typically, someone usually recommends someone to get hearing aids eg. neighbor or spouse or grandchild and they may attend with the user. It needs to be a family-oriented experience. For those who do not have family, there should be special emotion evoked through some other way - which could be through ‘personal empowerment’ and by endorsing Individuality. This should be a good way for people to express themselves, creatively through 'ART.' Initially, there will be no online options for purchase since the goal is to enhance the ‘experience’ It is also important to go to the store to talk to other people with hearing loss to learn more eg. their experience with tinnitus and then people are more likely to prevent hearing loss. The 'Ocean' theme, DolphinEar, is innovatively timeless for both children and older adults with the aim to evoke curiosity, novelty, individuality. 

How does your solution address or plan to address UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 for Good Health and Well-Being?

It is of utmost importance to find solutions to better address SDG3, which is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Society needs to overcome the thought process that hearing aids are for older people. Need a new brand that advertises hearing aids for young people/children and supplies hearing aids to ALL ages. And for every 10 hearing aids bought, we will donate one to a child. Also, this is beneficial for older people. This is because hearing aids are not only meant for older people, it is meant for everyone. It can be very easy to see negative audiology reports and  declining health as an overall sign that they need to stay home and isolate. This will improve their mental health, which will allow them to better take care of their overall health rather than feeling their health is going downhill and feel more inclined to stay fit. Need to make hearing aids more inclusive. 

If the experience of getting hearing aids improves then the outlook on hearing aids will improve because users will find joy in wearing hearing aids. In which case scenario, more people will start wearing hearing aids. If more people wear hearing aids, there will be greater societal acceptance. If there is greater societal acceptance, there will be less stigma. If there is less stigma, even more people will wear hearing aids including children. If more people wear hearing aids it will be more normalized, then this will help achieve the targets set by SDG3. In society, we will have less road traffic accidents resulting from patients who have hearing loss. There will be less people who fall and have delirium. This will lead to fewer ED admissions, which as a whole will save costs for the healthcare system. This product will also improve access to amplification devices to marginalized patients such as those in nursing homes, children with special needs, homeless population, and older adults. 

It is an important responsibility to understand what this solution cannot address and use this technology as a stepping stone for future progress. It is important to stress that there is still more to be done for patients who do not benefit from hearing aids, which includes the 92 year old lady who still cannot hear her grandchildren. She does not want a cochlear implant and feels the need to stay at home because she does not want to use an app that translates speech to text. She is not tech savy and does not need to be - we need to find better ways to leverage AI technology more simply for her use. Perhaps, more can be learned from patients with auditory neuropathy to address this in the future to promote this patient's well-being in a better way. Inspired by this older lady who cannot hear her grandchildren, this product helps to prevent people from experiencing needless suffering of progressive hearing loss as they age. 

Describe the AI components and underlying data that powers your solution.

Currently, directional hearing aids are used and can be adjusted to a particular setting during conferences to the speaker in the front. But, the user will have to sit in a particular spot to hear and will not be able to hear if everyone starts having discussion before/after in the noisy large conference room. Similarly, In restaurants, you still cannot hear women/children’s voices OR differentiate from background noise. Especially when there is a round table discussion. Patient's MAIN pain point is that they - Have to get up and leave AND there is currently no AI driven solution for this major problem.

What we need? A a movie theater type experience 

Need something better than the “tele-coil” that cuts out the background noise in current hearing aids. 

Unique Analogy: T-coil is like a wireless antenna (like a shark fin on a car - used for GPS and wifi) (This is how today's cars have mini iPads for users) 

Its function is Catching magnetic signals.Then, the Antenna converts currents into electromagnetic waves. Just like cars still need antennas, hearing aids also need antennas, which is really cool. Can create unique AI tech such as: What about wearing a pencil behind the ear camouflaged as an antenna? Is it better able to pick up the signal?

Can use AI for programmable control of antenna radiation pattern, direction-of-arrival estimation, and adaptive steering of its beam to improve the signal-to-noise ratio - This can only be carried out by digital technology. 

Since there are multiple wave signals from background noise that superimpose, you can program the hearing aid to target the signal based on the strongest, constant amplitude wave (CMA) OR as used in military antenna the PI where the jamming waves are stronger than the signal of interest such as when in a restaurant. 

In external beam radiation treatment, the beam is directed at one specfic spot and delivers treatment to the targetted area while sparing normal tissue around it. Similarly, we need to get the targetted sound signal while sparing the sound around it. 

This AI technology allows improved hearing aid technology with showcaseable, individuality-inspired design, and stress-reducing 'ocean' themed in-store walk-through experience.

We can coalesce the power of biophysics, technology, and art to power a new AI hearing aid that better serves the person.

How are you ensuring ethical and responsible use of AI in your work? How are you addressing or mitigating potential risks in your solution?

Our highest priority is to uphold patient safety while using this hearing aid. We want to ensure that the patient can hear well using the new technology to prevent any accidents, particularly road traffic accidents. There will be extensive testing done to ensure that the product functions well at all times. 

There needs to be protection of patient privacy and data, particularly being HIPAA compliant. In order to have hearing aids, one needs a prescription. There needs to be an easier way to facilitate obtaining this directly at the place of service. Need to find a way to retain AI collection of audiology reports within the hearing aid through microchip technology. Since the audiology report information will be stored in the microchip in the hearing aid, it is important to ensure that it can only be accessed with patient permission. Potential risks will be mitigated through extra security measures. 

It is also important to ensure that the correct, accurate, and up to date audiology reports are used when making the hearing aids using the AI technology. This will be done through extra verification procedures that will be embedded in the service. 

There will also be GPS tracking software in the technology that needs to be carefully and securely managed to uphold patient safety and privacy. This will be most useful in older adult and children who may get lost and can be located eg. Alzheimer's disease patients forget where they are going and the gps can guide them while using the hearing aid. It will also help older adults become more independent. It is important to control who can access their location for privacy purposes. 

It is with great responsibility that this AI technology needs to be circumspectly managed and designed to better protect the patient and society. 

Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Not registered as any organization

How many people work on your solution team?

Currently, this is a one person team in which I am developing the solution based on the problems that I have observed from listening to patients in the ENT clinic. 

How long have you been working on your solution?

I only recently started working on this solution this month. My focus has been on listening to the patient's pain points to better understand the problem over the year both in ENT clinic and Rehabilitation Center. This solution stems from my clinical experience learning from marginalized patient populations.  

Your Operational Plan & Funding

What are your current operating costs, and what are your projected operating costs for the next year? Please include human capital estimates.

Since this is only at the concept stage, there are currently no operating costs. The projected operating costs for the next year 1) Product development and Launch of MVP (using current Evidence-Based Medicine) we need 200K. There will be additional costs to ensure Product-market fit and better understand how to ensure customer-centric business value for low COCA and high LTV.

Applicants can request and receive funding at a minimum of 50k and maximum of $100k. How much funding are you seeking to continue your work in 2024, and how did you select this number? What would you use this funding for? Funding is limited; please consider carefully the right amount to request.

I would like to use this seed money to a) advance this from concept -> develop a prototype for testing, b) fund a team with adequate skills, c) use the power of Marine science to apply it to this technology, d) fulfill the goals to pilot this product with a small number of users with hearing loss 

My personal strength is in 'growth and scale' of this must-have product because I strongly believe that there is good product-market fit. My aim with the solution is to prioritize what matters most to the consumer, and to try to fix the actual problem. I really need the most help with transitioning from concept to prototype to pilot. I will need help building the technology based on my vision that I have gained from listening to the patients. 

Since patients who wear hearing aids typically will need it life-long due to irreversible hearing loss - from a business stand point I want to ensue that there is high lifetime value (LTV) of the customer. It is important to use the money to ensure that the product will keep the customers coming back. Also we need to ensure that the COCA is at least three times lower than the LTV. We want to use this money to ensure that it is a customer-centric, sustainable business with great product-market fit. 

I think the power of this product lies in a strong 'Decision Making Unit' that revolves around the end-user and multiple 'Customer Segments', and I would like to explore this further with the seed money. Uniquely, in the ENT clinic I observed that someone typically always recommends the patient to get a hearing test and hearing aids. Therefore, there are multiple possible 'customer segments' to target such as workplaces, grandchildren, parents, users, music stores, headphone companies, DMV offices, insurance companies, hospitals - this is what stands out to me to be very profitable - the scalability/growth/impact. Additionally, the changes associated with product are also very necessary with improved user-experience that is transformed. 

The Cure Residency will provide winners with seed funding, mentorship, lab space, mentorship, educational programming, and networking opportunities. How do you imagine this opportunity will help support your work? Which aspects of the Cure Residency would you be most excited about?

I would be most excited about making this product a reality that can be directly introduced to patients in clinic in the near future. It is not possible to do this without excellent mentors who can guide me with my ideas and offer feedback on how to make improvements. Grateful to my mentors who have helped me in the past. Networking opportunities are important because learning from others is a very useful skill. I am interested to learn how to combine both AI + Science to make this product a success. It is important to have a lab where one can apply scientific principles to developing and discovering new technology. In particular, I am interested in learning from Marine Science to improve hearing loss eg. due to the exceptional ability of Dolphins to both heal and hear, starfish to regenerate their arms and neurons. Also the unique anatomy of underwater animals is very fascinating to me and can be used to find ways to leverage science to make better technology. Overall, a combination of learning from patients in ENT clinic and then applying it to this project would be most beneficial to ensure that the patient is best served. 

In the future, I hope to learn more from the patient. I want to improve my understanding of the pathology of hearing loss, different patient presentations of tinnitus, how the stapedius muscle actually looks like/works in the OR, meet patients with auditory neuropathy, and observe hearing loss patterns in many patient populations to find novel ways to build better solutions. 

Solution Team

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