The global battery market is worth billions of dollars. Valued at $62 Billion, the rise of technological advancements has granted the rise to battery usage.
This includes zinc air batteries, the most commonly used type of batteries for hearing aids. Unfortunately, zinc air is a dry cell battery, which is non-rechargeable. Dry cell batteries contribute to the 3 billion batteries that are disposed of globally, which stimulates the need to green up our portable technologies.
Zinc air batteries are typically used for hearing aids. However, with 200 million people living with hearing impairment in the continent, access to hearing aids as well as its pollutive properties bears a great challenge to the marginalized community.
Fortunately, social innovator Tendekayi Katsiga believed that people should be able to hear through the sun. Through renewable energy, his company Deaftronics has created a solar power hearing aid battery charger as well as rechargeable batteries that allow reusing hearing aid batteries.
Additionally, the charger uses free and clean energy of the sun, which promotes green energy. The solar ear by Deaftronics has found itself helping many people across the continent. According to Katsiga, Solar Ear is serving the East and West African markets, opening distribution centres in Kenya and Nigeria. Having partnered with UNICEF to distribute in Zimbabwe, the solar ear hearing aid has impacted thousands of lives.
While the hearing aid is proving to be a major success in different places continentally, Katsiga has expressed that there is a large challenge in his home base, Botswana. “Like all home-grown solutions, people lack confidence in our products.” He said further mentioning interest from the Ministry of Health exists yet hasn’t yielded any physical results. While there is a lack of confidence in their products, it creates a ripple effects of disinterested investors, as there isn’t enough traction.
Although this may seem a challenge, Deaftronics focuses on a B2B business model that partners with Non-Governmental organizations, audiologists and vertical & horizontal suppliers to perform as their distribution channels. The best working stream is through NGO’s as they distribute to deaf centers, meeting their direct client and simultaneously creating an inclusive society.
Deaftronics has also introduced a new, advanced technology to their product, with a universal micro USB-like interface. It bears a charge time of 2 hours with 20-hour use. This is a product which Katsiga believes could define hearing aids in developing countries in the near future.
Outside of an envisioned growth in sales in developing countries, he sees the potential specifically in the latest charger. “Deaftronics’s new universal charger will prevent the utilization and disposal of at least 10 million batteries in the environment.” He says, further stating that it is an innate accessible energy source for hearing aid to people located in rural areas where batteries are both expensive and hard to find.