Dubai Lynx

Hearing Trade

VML, Riyadh / STC (SAUDI TELECOM COMPANY) / 2024

Awards:

1 Bronze Dubai Lynx
2 Shortlisted Dubai Lynx
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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

According to the WHO, 1 in 5 people worldwide has some degree of hearing loss. That’s 1,5 billion people. Almost a third of them have it at a disabling level.

The impacts of the different levels of hearing loss are broad and severe, affecting mental health, inclusion, social skills, early development, education, and work placement.

Hearing aid devices can help improve the lives of those people. Studies show that those with hearing loss who regularly used hearing aids had a 24% lower mortality risk than those who never wore them.

The problem? Hearing aid devices are too expensive, especially for people in developing countries.

Despite popular perception, Saudi Arabia has a high percentage of people living in poverty, 13.6% of the population. The highest in the region.

stc, the biggest telecom company in Saudi Arabia, is in the business of improving people’s lives through technology. So, they needed to act.

Idea

The main obstacle between people with hearing loss and much-needed hearing devices is the cost. However, the core parts of a hearing aid device can be found in virtually every phone model. So, why not make the most of it?

The Hearing Trade devices are hearing boosters built using parts found in used and discarded phones: microphones, speakers, and batteries.

We created an original design that makes the production of hearing devices much cheaper and adaptable to every phone model and every shape of ear. With 3D printing, we also developed a rechargeable case with recycled material and a universal fit.

We made it an open-source project, placing the blueprint for the design and technology on a special website, available to the entire world to make their own devices and further improve the project.

Strategy

stc is the biggest telco company in Saudi Arabia, recognized for its innovation and technology, improving lives and inclusivity. The company decided to use that expertise to benefit the lower classes of the country, helping those in need.

With the country overgoing a cultural revolution and setting ambitious goals with the Vision 2030 plan, no one should be left behind. And with a high number of the population living with hearing loss and in poverty, they were at risk.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest smartphone market in the Gulf Region, selling millions of devices annually. Our insight: If all these phones are being bought, millions of other used phones must be discarded, ending up in the back of drawers or landfills.

Each one of them carries spare parts that can be put to good use. We needed to make sure that happened.

Execution

The process lasted nearly 1.5 years.

It started with an extensive Research and Development phase, where we dismantled and studied a wide range of phones, varying in year, model, and brand. We identified the parts that could be used to develop the hearing amplifiers, which were present across all phones. We had to make it cheap and with readily available components.

Focusing on microphones, speakers, and batteries, we proceeded to the technology and mechanical designs. They walked hand-in-hand to ensure the project was adaptable to every type of phone.

With the designs defined, we began prototyping and trials. The devices had to be fit for right and left ears, easy to use, and low cost.

The final schematics were uploaded to our website and made available for download by organizations and people worldwide.

The first devices are already in use across KSA and distributed to those who cannot afford them.

Outcome

After a long period of research and development, the Hearing Trade devices are finally in use across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, being tested by selected recipients. The first feedback is already coming back, and they are incredibly positive.

The Hearing Trade devices help people feel included instead of isolated. Reports mention better performance at school and work and higher quality family time. Many are reconnecting with family members and working on social skills.

The website continues live, with free access to the open-source project, inviting people to collaborate and improve the design and technology.

stc’s goal was to help the population with its expertise and access to technology while contributing to KSA’s Vision 2030.

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