Hearing loss affects 430 million people globally, with only 3% of those in lower-income countries having access to hearing aids. In Jordan, where there are only 27 licensed audiologists for over 11.3 million people, the situation is particularly challenging. The nonprofit startup 3DP4ME (3D Printing for the Middle East) is addressing this issue by using 3D printing technology and portable 3D ear scanners to create affordable hearing aids for young refugees and low-income Jordanians.
“For those living in low and middle-income countries, where audiologists are few and far between, access to treatment remains an expensive luxury,” says 3DP4ME Founder & CEO Jason Szolomayer, “Not being able to hear properly keeps children out of school, adults out of work, and traps families in never-ending cycles of poverty.”
The NGO launched its Hearing Express pilot in early 2023, funded by Intel, Accenture, and BASF. By April, it had fitted 103 high-quality customized 3D-printed Phonak hearing aids and offered essential speech therapy services to 52 children aged six to 12. The 3D printing process is faster and more cost effective than traditional methods, and the portability of the equipment allows the NGO to reach remote and vulnerable communities.
The impact of this initiative is significant. For instance, a seven-year-old Syrian refugee named Sham, who was fitted with 3D-printed hearing aids, has seen her comprehension grow from 20% to 70%, and her vocabulary is expanding rapidly.
3DP4ME is the only nonprofit in Jordan providing 3D printed hearing aids pro bono or at reduced costs to lower-income communities. The NGO plans to conduct a second round of fittings later in 2023 and is exploring the possibility of expanding into 3D printing for lower limb prosthetics.
If you’d like to support 3DP4ME, you can find more information here.