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
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.
Established in 1976, The Rolex Awards for Enterprise recognizes a new or ongoing
project in any part of the world that works towards improving quality of life
or protecting the world's natural and cultural heritage. Each award involves a cash prize of 33,000
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