So here we are with our Totally Awesome Woman #3 - the fabulous Carolyn Mee.
Carolyn is the founder and creator of Sound Scouts, an app cleverly designed as a fun game that enables parents to test children's hearing in the comfort of their home. Each year, in Australia alone, over 250,000 children start school. Whilst hearing testing is now standard at birth and the NSW Government provides eyesight screening for pre-schoolers with the StEPS program, there's no other screening program for hearing. Apparently 1 in 10 children will be impacted by hearing loss, which will massively impact their ability to learn.
Hearing is critical to success in the classroom and often if there is an issue it can remain undetected for years as children are very good at adjusting and accommodating their hearing loss.
In 2011, Carolyn identified this gap and, utilising her gaming and media expertise, designed a solution in collaboration with National Acoustic Laboratories to deliver affordable, easily-administered hearing tests.
I witnessed Carolyn present to the Heads Over Heels community in June of this year and heard about the impact hearing loss can have on children long-term and also the global plans for Sound Scouts. As with all small business operators, Carolyn wears many hats and with the ambitious hopes for Sound Scouts, she is in any one day a gamer, a lobbyist or medical legal expert, a media spokesperson, health advocate, education campaigner and many other things.
The app, which is available on iTunes App Store and Google Play, won $1.1 million in grant funding from the NSW Government in 2015 and has won multiple awards for its creativity, including the BigInsights Data Innovation Award for start-ups in 2017.
It is played an Ipad or similar, has now been adapted for mobile phones and an adult version is in development. As well as that, Sound Scouts are working feverishly to meet strident US regulations to enable it to achieve Medical Device status and launch in that market.
It has been a labour of love for Carolyn and her team, including Chief Tech Officer, Cuauh Moreno and NAL hearing guru, Professor Harvey Dillon. Its cleverness lies in the marriage of science and creativity to extract incredibly powerful data whilst the child is just having fun.
Carolyn was honoured for her efforts in 2016, being nominated as an AFR Westpac "100 Women of Influence" and she says she can die happy knowing that she has created something that can contribute to improving people's quality of life.
I'm blown away by the big picture-ness of Carolyn's idea and loving watching Sound Scouts evolve. I photographed some children in 2017 as they played the game, as well as capturing children in a classroom environment to help communicate the need. It's an incredibly long-term, hard yards commitment to take it from concept, through thousands of hours of testing, to commercialisation and hopefully global growth. Respect, Carolyn, respect.
As a mother with three young daughters, I used the test on my 6 year old after some questions were raised in the classroom. It was startling to me the data that was generated and so worth the investment for peace of mind and assurance of the best start for your child.
You can find out more at www.soundscouts.com