16-year-old invents $60 hearing aid

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A 16-year-old student from Louisville has created a device to test and amplify hearing for only $60. 

DuPont Manual student Mukund Venkatakrishnan worked on the device for two years and has finally completed most of the technological work. He presented the device at the Jefferson County Public Schools Idea Fest and recently won first place the Kentucky State Science and Engineering Fair. 

“Really I started online. I looked up ‘how to program’ online and taught myself how to program,” he said. 

The device is built to first; test hearing by playing several different sounds at seven different frequencies through headphones. It then programs itself to be a hearing aid, amplifying volume based on the test results.  

“It eliminates the need for a doctor altogether,” Mukund said. “It’s really, in essence, just amplifiers, just increase the volume based on how much hearing loss you have and it’s crazy that they cost $1,500 each, when you can do it for $60.”

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Mukund said the processor, which is responsible for amplifying volume by increasing the volume of an incoming signal, was the most expensive part – about $45. Other parts, added up to about $15. 

He spent hours a day working at FirstBuild, near the University of Louisville campus. Even when the building was closing, Mukund would continue working into the night, weekdays and weekends, whatever it took to complete the device. 

“I’m kinda surprised it turned out OK,” Mukund said, “it’s hard to like, see something like this working. I wanted to quit a lot of times in the middle. Everything was going wrong all the time. You never knew if something was going to work or not.”

But he didn’t quit. And that’s because his motivation goes deeper his natural drive and persistence. He visited his grandfather two years ago in India and learned he was suffering from hearing loss. 

“The summer after my freshman year, I went to India and I stayed with my grandparents. My grandfather has had hearing loss for a little while. It was my job to set up all the appointments. The process took forever to find an audiologist, then once we got there they ripped us off and I kinda looked into the problem more and that’s kinda where I got into it,” he said.

Mukund’s goal is to distribute the device to people with hearing loss who can’t afford a $1,000 hearing aid. He said his grandfather knows about his invention and is excited to try it out. 

While the technological part of the device – which has yet to be named – is complete, Mukund is working to make it smaller and more user friendly. He proposes he will have the size smaller in just one week. 

If we had to guess – He will be able to do it. 

“When you finally get that solution to a problem, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Mukund said. “When you finally get that breakthrough and that moment of ‘ah ha’ or ‘eureka,’ I love that feeling, it’s kinda what kept me going. That and my grandfather, you know keeping him in my head. There are people like him who wouldn’t be able to afford this device. That’s why I’m working on this project.”

Various foundations are reaching out to Mukund to help mass produce and distribute the hearing aid. 

Mukund will visit his grandfather in Bangalore, India this summer and deliver the hearing aid.

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16-year-old invents hearing aid

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