When Audientes CTO, Hossein Jelveh founded Audientes in 2014, his goal was to help improve the lives of the millions of people around the world suffering from disabling hearing loss, by making smart, self-fitting and affordable hearing aids available to everyone who needs them. One year later, in 2015, the United Nations adopted their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are a call to action for all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to work together to address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
“For Audientes, there was a very clear correlation between our mission and the ethos behind the SDGs,” says Jelveh. “The powerful aspiration to improve our world really resonated with us because that’s always been at the core of what we do. “
An immediate and apparent fit
Which is why the Audientes leadership team, with CEO, Steen Thygesen at the helm, made a strategic decision to identify which of the 17 goals were best in line with the company’s mission, and which the company could take responsible and measurable action on.
”There was an immediate and apparent fit between Audientes and three specific SDGs,” says Thygesen. “No Poverty, Good Health and Wellbeing, and Reduced Inequalities are an apt reflection of the potential knock-on benefits our solution offers. Addressing the global challenge of hearing loss can help lift people out of economic hardship, improve their general wellbeing and also help address the inequalities that arise for those who can’t get help for their hearing loss simply because of where they live and/or what they earn.”
The “No Poverty” sustainable goal aims to end poverty in all forms and dimensions by 2030. It’s a lofty and multi-faceted ambition. Relevant here is the fact that hearing loss and economic hardship often go hand-in-hand. According to the WHO, in fact, the annual cost of unaddressed hearing loss is between $750 – 790 billion. This figure includes the costs of loss of productivity due to unemployment and early retirement among people with hearing loss, as well as the costs to the healthcare and educational sectors for providing treatment, care and support. And it also encompasses the societal costs linked to isolation, stigma and communication difficulties. By making quality, self-fitting hearing aids accessible to people who otherwise cannot afford one, Audientes is helping to combat the significant challenges hearing loss poses.
“Hearing loss can often lead to fewer job opportunities. But treating hearing loss is not just about enabling better hearing; it’s also about opening the door to opportunity. Opportunity in the form of jobs, economic independence, human connections, education and so much more,” says Thygesen.
The same can be said for the “Good Health and Wellbeing” goal. People with untreated hearing loss are likely to experience an array of mental challenges, including frustration, anxiety, depression and cognitive decline. According to the UN, ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing at all ages is essential to sustainable development.
According to Thygesen, the advantages of wearing a hearing aid are not just related to hearing better. “Medical research has established a clear link between hearing loss and cognitive decline. And the benefits – both mental and physical – that come from addressing hearing loss, are extensive, including a decreased risk of dementia, depression and anxiety, as well as improved situational awareness and fall detection. By bringing our hearing aid to people with unaddressed hearing loss, I truly believe we are making a considerable impact on their health and wellbeing.”
The final SDG that Audientes is taking action on is “Reducing Inequalities,” which states that lowering inequalities and ensuring that no one if left behind are integral to achieving sustainable development. In many parts of the world, the treatments and options available to people suffering from hearing loss are dependent on the availability of government subsidies, personal income levels, and geography.
“Whether or not you get treatment for your hearing loss should not be dependent on where you live, how much you earn or whether or not you can access an audiologist,” says Thygesen. “Our hearing aid is both affordable and accessible for millions who, so far, have been excluded from getting the help they need. There is a shortage of hearing experts in many countries around the world, which is why we have designed our hearing aid to with a built-in hearing test. We’re enabling people to address their hearing loss from the comfort of their own homes, and for an affordable price. What’s more, better hearing leads to less exclusion from both the labor market and society as a whole.”
Address the stigma
Moreover, Audientes believe that the design of their hearing aid will help address the stigma that often comes with wearing a hearing aid. “You’d be surprised how much stigma is related to hearing loss in some parts of the world. Our hearing aid looks like a headset and therefore helps to eliminate this stigma. Less stigma means less inequalities,” says Thygesen.
For Audientes, the next step in this project is to define and implement a process for how best to measure SDG progress.
”As business leaders, we are used to looking at the bottom line and using that as a measure of success.” Says Thygesen “We need to shift our focus now and encompass other factors when determining success. How are we impacting society? The environment? The world? It’s these factors that we should also be held accountable for moving forward.”