If a child’s hearing issues go undiagnosed, they can often struggle at school and fall behind.
The startup Sounds Scouts hopes to make hearing tests more accessible through an interactive tablet game kids can play at home, ensuring that hearing problems are diagnosed and addressed
The Australian-based startup, founded by Carolyn Mee, graduated from the disability technology-focused Remarkable accelerator this Monday. According to Mee, the program’s masterclasses were particularly helpful.
“[They] made us more strategic in our thinking,” she said. “I absolutely feel better placed to tackle the next step.”
Available on iOS and Android tablets, with one session priced at A$14.99 ($11.22), the game was developed in collaboration with the National Acoustic Laboratories.
To use the app, children older than 4 years and 9 months play a narrative-based game about Patch, the bionic-eared dog. Throughout the 15-minute test, kids are tested for “conductive loss, sensorineural loss and central auditory processing disorder.”
“The children are surreptitiously tested — they don’t really know their hearing is being tested and they just get absorbed into the narrative,” Mee said.
The data is then collected and sent to the cloud. A result is calculated and a report sent back to the parent. The report clearly states whether the child is within the normal hearing range, she explained. If the child “fails,” the report is able to give an indication of the likely cause, and depending on the condition, recommend they see a doctor.
“We try and be as clear as possible,” she said.
Mee began working on the project in 2011 after learning about the Indigenous ear, nose and throat surgeon, Kelvin Kong.
“I kept thinking about him and the challenges of screening children for hearing loss,” she said. “I have three children … and I know what the experience is like going to clinics, taking time off work, and waiting weeks for an appointment. I just knew the pain points.
“I wanted to create something that allowed for greater access, was enjoyable and could ensure that kids weren’t being disadvantaged by hearing loss nobody knew about.”
Currently, the data collected by the app is used solely for delivering results, but in the longterm, Mee suggested it could help indicate which regions needed extra hearing health resources.
The game is intended for home use, although Mee said she has fielded interest from clinicians and hearing doctors. Flying out to China Wednesday, she’s also in initial discussions with hearing organisations in other countries.
“Good hearing is so much linked with educational outcomes,” she added. “It’s really important that hearing is checked before children start school.”