Botswana solar hearing aid pioneers are taking their tech global

Solar-powered hearing aid developer Deaftronics is preparing to take its pioneering technology global, six years after creating its first prototype.

The Botswana-based company will pitch its renewable hearing aid at the Global Innovation Through Science and Technology (GIST Tech-I) contest in Kenya later this month. The global contest celebrates and seeks to maximise the potential of impactful science and technology companies “making a difference” in over 74 countries.

Since launching in 2009, Deaftronics has sold upwards of 10,000 solar-powered hearing aids. At $200 per unit, they aren’t especially cheap but still trump most other popular hearing aids, which often come at a cost of at least $600.

Each hearing aid comes with four rechargeable batteries that can last up to three years, as well as a solar charger for the rechargeable batteries. When Deaftronics began developing the units, most hearing aids distributed by international and NGOs could not be used for longer than a month. When batteries ran flat, the replacement cost of $4 per month was usually too high for the people using the aids.

“People have to make the choice between spending money on necessities and replacing batteries for their hearing aids. This is no easy trade-off,” Deaftronics boss Tendekayi Katsiga told QZ.

Deaftronics is now preparing to take its business to the next level and expand usage of their technology beyond hearing aids.

“Over the years, we have realised that providing solar-powered hearing aids is not the solution to preventing hearing loss,” said Katsiga. “We want to start developing mobile apps that work as an early warning system to detect hearing loss as it develops.”

The company is led by six founding members and now also boasts five part-time staffers – all of whom have hearing impediments.

“Having team members who have hearing impediments has kept us on our toes. The product is made for and by-people with hearing impediments,” Katsiga said.

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