Sinha, S., Irani, U.D., Manchaiah, V. & Bhamla, M.S.
PLoS ONE, 15(9), e0238922. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238922
Publication year: 2020

Hearing aids are the primary tool in non-medical rehabilitation for individuals with hearing loss. While the costs of the electronic components have reduced substantially, the cost of a hearing aid has risen steadily to the point that it has become unaffordable for the majority of the population with Age-Related Hearing Loss (ARHL) especially for those residing in low- and middle-income countries. Here, we present an ultra-low-cost, affordable and accessible hearing aid device (‘LoCHAid’), specifically targeted towards treating ARHL in elderly patients. The LoCHAid components cost 98 cents (< $1) when purchased in bulk for 10,000 units and can be personalized for each user through a 3D-printable case. It is designed to be an over-the-counter (OTC) self-serviceable solution for elderly individuals with ARHL. Electroacoustic measurements show that the device meets most of the targets set out by the WHO Preferred Product Profile and Consumer Technology Association for hearing aids. The frequency response of the hearing aid shows selectable gain in the range of 4-8 kHz, and mild to moderate gain between 200-1000 Hz, and shows very limited total distortion (1%). Simulated gain measurements show that the LoCHAid is well fitted to a range of ARHL profiles for males and females between the ages of 60-79 years. Overall, the measurements show that the device offers the potential to benefit individuals with ARHL. Thus, our proposed design has the potential to address the challenge of affordable and accessible hearing technology for hearing impaired elderly individuals especially in low- and middle-income countries.