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earAccess Investing in hearing solutions for children in economically disadvantaged communities.

High school valedictorian.

College graduate in engineering with honors.

President and CEO of Canada's largest pharmaceutical distribution company.

Philanthropist and world changer.

These words and titles obviously describe a very successful individual, but could you imagine if the same person technically failed the first grade? And then again nearly flunked out of college?

How can that be?

Claudio Bussandri (right) and his father, mother and brother. The family lived in Montreal when they moved from Italy.

Meet Claudio Bussandri, Founder of World Wide Hearing Foundation International

When Claudio Bussandri was falling behind in first grade, his teacher suggested he get his hearing checked. Doctors discovered that Claudio was very hard of hearing, which explained his poor performance in early elementary school. This discovery made all the difference. Through speech therapy and learning to read lips he rose to eventually become high school valedictorian and receive a full-ride scholarship to McGill University.

In college, he again fell behind because he struggled to hear mumbling professors in classrooms with poor acoustics. Only when he worked with the school to finance hearing aids did his performance turn around. Again equipped with the tools needed to succeed, he ultimately graduated with honors and went on to have a highly successful career leading several large companies.

But what if Claudio never would have been diagnosed or given the help he needed? What if his first grade teacher would have simply held him back in school? What if McGill University hadn't called him in to talk about his failing grades?

Claudio was fortunate to have people and resources to help him succeed early in life. Unfortunately, Claudio's case represents a small minority of cases. Far too many individuals suffering from hearing loss will never receive any of the help that Claudio received.

Motivated by his own experience, Claudio teamed up with finance professional-gone-volunteer Audra Renyi to start the World Wide Hearing Foundation International with the express purpose of helping children and young adults in developing countries who are hard of hearing.

Meet Audra Renyi, Founder of earAccess

Audra Renyi (left), Diane Bussandri (middle), and Claudio Bussandri (right).

Audra took things one step further in 2014 when she founded earAccess, a for-profit company that distributes low-cost hearing aids to low-income families in developing communities.

earAccess is able to deliver the entire process, including testing and fitting the individual then distributing and maintaining the hearing aids at 80% less than the cost of traditional hearing loss healthcare.

earAccess hearing aids kits are designed to be both effective and affordable.

In an impact study conducted in Guatemala, Audra found that those suffering from hearing loss were significantly poorer than their auditory healthy counterparts, and were twice as likely to be depressed.

Nine months after receiving hearing aids, 83% of the hard-of-hearing patients that had previously reported symptoms of depression no longer had any of these symptoms. 86% of them reported an increase in self confidence.

“Access to interventions and hearing aids is 10 times worse in developing countries. Our fundamental goal is to make sure that everybody who needs a hearing aid has access to one, without compromising on quality.” -Audra Renyi.

Meet the people they've helped

earAccess has already screened over 10,000 children in Peru and Guatemala. They plan to screen at least 30,000 more children in developing countries in the next 18 months.

Meet the students who helped them accomplish their mission

In 2018, earAccess tapped the Sorenson Impact Foundation for funding, and the student fellows at the Sorenson Impact Center jumped on the project. Students conducted impact research, financial modeling, market analysis and more to form an educated opinion on the success of earAccess's business model.

Tyler Simpson, senior associate, said clients like earAccess allow him to "use my skills and apply them for social good." He said that while the Sorenson Impact Foundation committee always has the final say in who they fund, the student fellows at the Sorenson Impact Center research the company and present an educated opinion that informs the investing committee's opinion.

Audra said of her experience: "Working with the students at Sorenson Impact was a terrific process. Their questions were excellent, their level of sophistication was really impressive and up to that of professional investors."

To read more about social impact funding projects at Sorenson Impact Center, visit our website.

Credits:

Created with images by JD Mason - "Old man with hearing aid."

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