Hearing loss can impact how a child learns and plays. Carolyn Mee has spent over 5 years developing and testing Sound Scouts an app-based test to easily check and monitor the hearing of kids. We spoke to Carolyn about her experiences developing the app and how important it is to increase awareness of the need for regular hearing tests.
What is your health innovation? What does it aim to do?
Sound Scouts is a children’s hearing check designed to make hearing tests fun, affordable and most importantly, accessible. The downloadable app incorporates the science of a traditional hearing test in an engaging, interactive game. Children play the game on a mobile device with headphones and on completion, the game data is sent to the cloud and processed via our proprietary algorithm. A report is then immediately returned to the supervising adult. The details of individual test results can be reviewed by clinicians via a secure online portal. Unlike other solutions, no additional specialist hardware is required. Sound Scouts is the result of 5 years R&D by Sound Scouts Ltd and the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research arm of Australian Hearing. It has been supported by NSW Health and is being adopted by parents and schools across Australia to test the hearing of new students and those presenting with learning difficulties.
How do you celebrate and showcase your successes? Who is the first person you tell?
As a startup, there are constant challenges to overcome so it is often difficult to take time out to celebrate the wins. But as a team, we do acknowledge the achievements, both big and small, that bring us closer to success. As the Founder I share the company’s achievement with my husband who has provided his unwavering support over the many years it has taken to build the Sound Scouts product.
What challenges have you come up against in developing your health innovation? What motivated you to keep going?
There is a long list of challenges you face when developing a digital health solution. Being truly innovative is an amazing achievement but creating an innovative health product with all the associated regulatory requirements is not for the faint-hearted. Some weeks it is simply a case of putting one foot in front of the other to ensure we continue to move forward. All that said, perhaps the biggest challenge we have faced is the general lack of awareness amongst the population about the importance of good hearing. Ensuring there is access to an affordable hearing check and knowing we can make a difference to a child’s life is what motivates us to keep going.
What is one thing the public could do to help your innovation to succeed?
It would be wonderful if we could harness the power of the public to highlight the importance of hearing. In the same way, we do an annual dental check we should be checking our ears to ensure they’re working well. It’s particularly important for children to be able to hear in noisy environments like their classrooms. If a child has a mild hearing loss it may impact their ability to learn and socialise which in turn impacts their quality of life.
In the words of Helen Keller “Blindness separates people from things;
deafness separates people from people.”
Sound Scouts is working towards making a difference.
What are the benefits of developing your innovation in Australia?
The Australian startup community, particularly in the health sector is incredibly supportive. We’re also fortunate to have access to development funds, such as the NSW Health Medical Devices Fund Grant, that is specifically focused on supporting innovative medical devices.
Carolyn and her team is currently working towards ensuring that Sound Scouts is adopted as screening all preschool children so any hearing difficulties are picked up before they start school. Follow Sound Scouts on Health Horizon to keep track of its progress.