Howard Weinstein

Ashoka Fellow
Sao Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Howard Weinstein was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Howard is building an alternative social business model and set of economic transactions to supply and distribute hearing aids to low-income, hearing-impaired persons. He manufactures hearing aids run on new solar-powered battery technology, freeing hearing aid users from the economic burden of buying regular zinc batteries at US$1 per week. Through the broad distribution of these hearing aids, especially to children at a critical time in their development of speech and cognitive abilities, Howard will create new access to hearing aids and improved social integration for the largely excluded population of low-income hearing impaired people in the developing world.

Howard’s partnership with the Brazilian public health system offers the government a low-cost, high quality hearing aid to distribute to many more people. He also offers an alternative to private audiologists, giving them the opportunity to sell their services and products at lower cost and for the first time, to tap into a huge bottom-of-the-pyramid client base.

Driving Howard’s efforts is the idea of using his new technology as an instrument for empowering disabled people to push for changes in the way deaf people are viewed and treated in Brazilian society. Howard’s business model notably employs deaf people to manufacture the hearing aid technology because of their highly developed manual dexterity. He focuses on his deaf employees as a unit for creating leaders within the deaf community, teaching them the skills to train other deaf people and encouraging them to build their own initiatives. Within the next several years, Howard plans to distribute 1 million hearing aids to users across Latin America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


We realize that even if we made 2 million hearing aids we would not be solving the problem of hearing loss ( estimated to be over 600 million people) in the world. We want to socialize and democratize the hearing aid industry by having the users cell phone being able to test their own hearing.($1) The results will be sent via the cloud to a Solar Ear professional. We will be able to remotely program the users cell phone to become a hearing aid ( $15) of equal sound quality to a $2,000 hearing aid. Impact: We have sold to date over 20,000 solar chargers and 40,000 rechargeable hearing aids which has enabled over 20,000 children to learn to communicate and therefore the ability to go to a public school. We have saved over 2 million batteries from being thrown out, lowered HIV-AIDS in deaf communities from 38% to 10 %, changed public policy in China and will soon have peace building dividend by having in the Middle East, Shunni, Shite, Christian and Jewish young adults who are deaf, work together. We have created 50 meaningful jobs for people who are deaf and have had over 100 people with a disability hired by other companies as part of our education and inclusion technical training program.

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