Interview with De ...

Interview with De Wet Swanepoel, Co-Founder of hearScreen

South African Mobile Health Startup Provides Low-Cost Hearing Tests

Through affordable access to clinically-valid hearing tests, hearScreen aims to improve the lives of the 1.2 billion people who suffer from hearing difficulties. The South African mobile health startup's hearing tests can be administered by users without training, and a referall system links patients with services.

De Wet Swanepoel, Co-Founder of hearScreenWe met in Finland with De Wet Swanepoel, Co-Founder of hearScreen, where he was one of 30 world-changing entrepreneurs participating in the Slush Impact Accelerator Program.

Q: What motivated you to start hearScreen?

A: I’ve been working in the field of hearing and hearing health care for 15 years. About 1.2 billion people have a hearing problem, which is 1 in 7 people globally. Furthermore, 80 percent of those people have no access to care. The current equipment is prohibitive, expensive, and not mobile.

We aimed to develop a solution to democratize access to hearing health care using smartphone technology. To test hearing loss in children and adults according to ISO international standards. We can take hearScreen to communities in an affordable, broad-based manner. We offer a whole range of testing—not just a device, but a whole solution.

Q: What has been the impact of hearScreen so far?

A: Once hearing loss is detected in children, we see teachers immediately understanding the reason for the child's challenges and providing accommodation to improve learning. Community members have also expressed the value of community outreach and health workers administering hearing tests to adults. They feel they are not only receiving information, but also a service.

Q: What is the biggest challenge faced by hearScreen?

A:  Scale. We need the right partners to scale internationally. We need strategic partnerships to navigate the varying regulation environments in markets we want to enter. Distribution partners similar to the collaboration we’ve forged with Vodacom in South Africa, development organizations such as UNICEF and WHO—these types of partners will help us expand our reach and impact.

Q: How has mLab Southern Africa helped you in your business?

A: They’ve been very supportive. They’ve provided great guidance and access to networks. We’ve worked with them throughout this entire process.

Q: What is your vision for hearScreen in five years?

A: Our vision is that healthy hearing becomes accessible to every child and adult around the world. The early detection of hearing problems becomes a reality. We are providing the first disruptive model of decentralizing and democratizing access to hearing health care. Ensuring affordability and broad-based access is our priority.

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