Action Research


Three Global Social Benefit Fellows, select junior undergraduate students at Santa Clara University, spent 9 months researching the socio-economic impact of hearing aids as a health technology intervention. They also created a monitoring and evaluation tool to be able to track these social impacts over time. 

The Fellows worked in partnership with Solar Ear (GSBI 2010), based in Sao Paolo, Brazil. They conducted field work in urban and rural Sao Paolo State and in Rio de Janeiro. Solar Ear was the target audience for this project. However, this monitoring and evaluation tool can be used by any hearing aid intervention organization.




Read Their Findings:



Tuning in to Solar Ear

by Myles Sansone, Mary Catherine Duane, Natalie Lays


Read about the research and findings of the Global Social Benefit Fellows working with Solar Ear Brazil, a social benefit enterprise. 

Solar Ear is making large advances in bringing its hearing aid technology into lower socioeconomic sectors of a variety of countries. Currently, however, Solar Ear is facing significant challenges to receiving the funding necessary to expand. 

The Fellows research delivers a comprehensive report developed from both qualitative and quantitative measurement of the social impact of frugal hearing aid technologies. 

Through a detailed analysis of existing monitoring and evaluation tools, as well as personal interviews, the Fellows developed and analyzed a new Monitoring and Evaluation Tool (MET) reflecting their observations in the field. 

This new MET serves as an instrument to collect quantitative statistics on the hearing aid product as Solar Ear looks to expand into other countries and increase its revenue. 






Meet The Students:

Read their reflections on social entrepreneurship to address the needs of the hearing impaired





Catherine Duane



Myles Sansone
Computer Science and



Natalie Lays





The Project Plan


The Fellows project plan includes an investigative review of technological ways hearing aid beneficiaries could report the social benefits of their device through an IT-platform based MET rather than relying on trained interviewers or survey takers. 

At present, there is no existing report that seeks to measure the social benefits of frugal health technology and specifically this solar powered hearing aid. 

With this project the Fellows support ongoing operational improvements of  Solar Ear in order to make it more attractive to funders.



The Hosting Social Enterprise: 



Solar Ear Brazil attempts to improve the quality of life of hearing impaired individuals by providing low-cost solar-powered hearing aids. Hearing loss is prevalent in Brazil because of a lack of prevention efforts, limited access to affordable health care and treatment of diseases, and higher noise pollution levels in several employment sectors. As the severity of the problem increases, otherwise healthy children and adults are prevented from attending school or working because they are considered deaf, even if their hearing loss is not complete. 

Solar Ear Brazil, manufactures, assembles and distributes, the first digital rechargeable hearing aid, a new solar battery charger and rechargeable hearing aid batteries which costs the same as disposable zinc air batteries, but lasts two to three years. 

All products are assembled by young employees who are deaf. By developing practical technologies for the region and creating employment, training and education programs, this project is a sustainable professional enterprise, as well as effect the way civil society views the skills of people with disabilities.



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