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Business woman takes hearing test to Vogue Codes Kids

21 May 2019

Carolynmee 8665

The World Health Organisation estimates more than 1 billion young people are in danger of hearing loss from portable audio devices, including smart phones. Hearing professionals also believe that anyone who uses headphones for more than 90 minutes each day could be jeopardising their hearing. We spoke with Sound Scouts owner and Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow recipient Carolyn Mee about her plan to put healthy hearing back on the map.

For children, hearing issues are a common cause of speech, learning and behavioural problems. If children struggle to hear, they struggle to learn. According to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, three to six Australian children in every thousand have some degree of hearing loss. Often the child and parents can be unaware of the issue. In the adult hearing space, research has established a link between hearing loss and the risk of dementia in later life.

When it comes to hearing health and detecting issues early, business woman Carloyn Mee (above) – a Westpac Businesses of Tomorrow recipient – and the founder of the Sound Scouts App (https://apple.co/2Enxkwx; https://bit.ly/2txYlqI), which tests for three different hearing issues, knows she’s on the right track.

But how did Carolyn, who owned and ran a content production business, get into App development?

“Back in 2010, I was working more and more with digital assets in my content production business and decided I needed to up-skill in the digital space,” says Carolyn.

That initial study led Carolyn to understand that the work she was doing in digital studies, which was on hearing and game development, was worthy of further development in the health space. So, Carolyn applied for a grant and found herself on the path to forming a technology business.

The grant application was successful and Carolyn began collaborating with the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research arm of Australian Hearing, to develop Sound Scouts, her tablet-based game to detect hearing issues in children. (You can also use the test to detect “hidden hearing loss” in adults.

During Vogue Codes, most specifically on Saturday 15 June for Vogue Codes Kids, Sound Scouts will be at the Westpac booth and available to test hearing health.

Australia, says Carolyn, does not check children’s hearing at school entry.

“Screening newborns has been successful in identifying hearing problems at birth, but there is no consistent testing protocol for pre-schoolers or older children,” Carolyn says.

For our indigenous children, who have a higher rate of undiagnosed and untreated hearing issues, learning and education outcomes are made much worse.

“With a simple test we could make such a difference,” says Carolyn.

Early intervention for all children is what Carolyn says keeps driving Sound Scouts development and her business forward.

Late in 2018 the Federal Government decided to fund a national rollout of free tests for children using the Sound Scouts App. The program, which has now begun, will run for up to five years, ensuring that up to 600,000 Australian children age 4-17 have their hearing checked using the Sound Scouts test.

(Sound Scouts is currently the only tool of its kind available in Australia validated by NAL.)

Carolyn is pleased with the move but admits it’s been a long process, and that has meant having to stay passionate, and focussed on the outcomes to the point of obsession.

“I’ll catch myself thinking, well, we’re all still learning and growing [in the Sound Scouts business] so that has to be a good thing, and that pushes me to continue.

“Running the business has introduced me to so many incredible people and provided so many opportunities. Those people and opportunities have also made me aware that female entrepreneurs are forces to be reckoned with and that finding the right people with which to work and to whom you can delegate is a skill that has to be learned,” says Carolyn.

Taking into consideration the sorts of behaviours and actions that can help support female entrepreneurs to succeed in business, Carolyn believes these are some essentials.

“Having the confidence to back your self is really important. I think this has to come from both within and without,” says Carolyn.

“Flexibility in work is a real enabler,” she adds, “but I don’t think co-working spaces located in the city are the answer. They don’t offer the greatest flexibility if you’re based in the suburbs with family, life commitments to meet.”

Carolyn also believes it’s important to equip yourself with the basic skills to run a business: to know about tax; how to manage a spreadsheet; cash flow.

“It’s important to upskill in business fundamentals and it’s important to think, ‘let’s give it a try, because what have I got to lose’,” finishes Carolyn.

Vogue Codes Kids, register here.

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