In yet another instance of solar power leap-frogging grid infrastructure in the developing world–and making a real difference in the lives of low-income people–there’s now a cheap, rechargeable hearing aid called the Solar Ear.
Created by Howard Weinstein and developed and funded through a partnership between a Brazilian NGO, the Institute CEFAC, Development Consulting and the University of São Paulo, Solar Ear is a Brazil-based company that creates low-cost hearing aid that get their juice from solar-powered batteries. Not only is this good for the earth (since traditional hearing aids often require new batteries on a weekly basis) it’s good news for low-income people around the world, who often cannot afford hearing aids and live in places where grid electricity is unavailable or unreliable.
The Solar Ear digital hearing aid relies on two rechargeable AA batteries, which are placed inside a palm-sized solar charger. The batteries then charge the hearing aid, which fits neatly inside the ear; batteries typically retain power for about one week before needing a boost of sunlight again. Solar Ear has not patented the design, leaving the door open to other companies to manufacture a similar green, low-cost (around $100) device, bringing it to even more of the people who need it most.