Neeti Kailas, an entrepreneur from Bangalore, is among 5 global designers to
bag the Rolex Award for Enterprise 2014 for designing a cheap, easy-to-use
device to improve hearing loss screening in newborn babies.
Kailas is a former student of National Institute of Design and runs the Sohun Innovation Lab in Bangalore with her husband Nitin Sisodia, who is an engineer.
The award was also given in recognition of her ongoing efforts to build a network of healthcare professionals in India, who would include pediatricians, healthcare workers and maternity homes, who are involved in diagnosing and treating deafness in babies.
The portable device designed by Kailas is battery operated and noninvasive that can screen babies for hearing loss in India.
Presently, India holds a record of nearly 100,000 hearing-impaired babies born every year.
There are currently no regular hearing screening tests available in India. The available ones are costly and require skilled healthcare workers to handle them.
Timely detection of hearing problems is very essential since untreated hearing impairment can hamper speech, language and cognition development in babies at 6 months of age.
Kailas said "To me, design is about problem solving, and thinking about how I can have maximum impact on society. In a country like India, that's never going to happen by designing the next lemon squeezer."
The Department of Biotechnology, the All India Institute for Medical Sciences, as well as the Centre for Innovation in Global Health in the US and Canada's Grand Challenge have extended their support to Kailas' project.
Kailas anticipates device usage in about 2% of births in the first year of launch and thereafter widespread usage of the device.
Kailas' goals are to reach out to every child in India with the hearing screening test and to design a screening test in the future for vision problems in babies.