Sunday, October 30, 2011

Howard Weinstein Named Social Entrepreneur of the Year 
Solar Ear founder and CEO Howard Weinstein was selected as social entrepreneur of the year by World Technology Network.... Solar Ear designs and manufactures a solar-powered, battery rechargeable, inexpensive hearing aid solution. Technology partner Sonomax designs in-ear technology to custom fit earpieces to each patient in a single visit.
Weinstein started Solar Ear when he saw the need for an affordable, user-friendly and ecological hearing aid. WHO estimates that approximately 278 million suffer from hearing loss of which 200 million live in developing countries. Adult-onset hearing loss is the second longest cause of years lived with a disability.

“The hearing aid industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world, which is both good and bad,” said Weinstein. “Most of the innovation has been misplaced and focused on the wrong things, like developing technology for a $7500 hearing aid. That is completely out of reach for most of the world’s deaf population.” Only 12% of hearing aids manufactured are in the developing world.

Solar Ear offers hearing solutions for under $100US. The products were featured in “Brilliant Eco-Inventions; Designs to Solve the Worlds Problems,” which appeared in the November 2010 issue of National Geographic. Solar Ear products are now included in the collections of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and the Smithsonian.
In addition to innovating new hearing aid technology, Weinstein has also developed a new business model. Solar Ear hires deaf workers throughout the world to invent, develop and assemble these breakthrough products.

“The key to our success is that our workers are deaf,” said Weinstein. “They are able to manufacture at a world-class level in part because they are deaf. People who are deaf and speak in sign language have better hand-eye coordination than hearing people. We need this special ability to micro-solder the tiny components for a hearing aid.”

Solar Ear capitalizes on its workforce on several continents, recently bringing Solar Ear workers from Botswana to Sao Paulo to teach a 6-month theoretical and practical electronics and micro-solder course. “Think about that journey, leaving rural Botswana and arriving 12 hours later in a city of 17 million people,” Weinstein said. “And for the Brazilian youths, this was the first time they had ever had a teacher who was also deaf.”

Next year courses will bring together Israeli and Palestinian youths in Jerusalem, and Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir.

World Technology Network
Solar Ear
Corporate Social Responsibility Wire
October 27, 2011

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