AC JumpStart client Rob Koch is helping the world to hear with the leading audiology patient simulator on the market. A physiologically and acoustically realistic manikin, CARL enables clinicians and students to easily and safely develop their skills, resulting in more successful performances in clinical scenarios.
That’s how many people have disabling hearing loss worldwide.
And the number is only increasing.
The World Health Organization projects that by 2050, the number will surpass 900 million. That’s one in every ten people.
Although he may look like one, CARL is no dummy. He is the leading audiology patient simulator on the market. A physiologically and acoustically realistic manikin, CARL enables clinicians and students to easily and safely develop their skills, resulting in more successful performances in clinical scenarios.
CARL is so realistic that you can actually see inside his ear, make measurements, fit hearing aids and tubes, AND generate accurate readings that indicate how well the hearing aid is fitted. Amazingly, (and perhaps shockingly for the practising clinicians), CARL even cries “Ow!” if something is done incorrectly.
Once you see and experience CARL, it’s hard to fathom how anyone learned how to properly administer hearing aids without a talking head to cry out in pain when things aren’t done just right.
In the past year, CARL has gone from a few early adopters to having over 50 heads in 7 countries. And he’s just getting started.
When Rob was finishing up high school, he faced a problem that is all-too familiar to teenagers everywhere: Having no idea what he wants to do with this life.
Knowing his strengths were science and math, Rob decided to go to Western for electrical engineering. A decision that would transform not only his life, but the lives of millions.
CARL was born as a capstone project during this undergrad in 2016.
“My supervisor, Dr. Hanif Ladak was very industry-focused. He was always thinking about application and where products could actually be used. If I didn’t have the professor that I did, I wouldn’t have seen the concept through,” Rob explains.
The brilliant idea was further developed during Rob’s biomedical engineering master’s degree, which focused on perfecting CARL.
“By the end of my second degree, I had four prototypes and two validation studies. I graduated in August 2018, and that’s when AHead Simulations really started,” Rob says with a big smile.
Humans come in all shapes, colours and sizes. So do CARLS.
Introducing Baby CARL. As the name suggests, Baby CARL is infant-size to best prepare clinicians for the different anatomy and greater elasticity of a baby’s ear.
Adult CARL is available in three ear sizes and a range of skin tones.
The diversity of manikins makes for greater diversity in training, resulting in highly-skilled clinicians.
AHead Simulations is a current AC JumpStart client.
“Like most startups, I was initially after funding, which made me apply to AC JumpStart. But then I realized that—although the $30,000 in seed funding that the program provides is great—the mentorship is truly the most valuable part.” He continues, listing off examples of specific business areas that the mentors have really helped him in. He shakes his head and laughs:
“I can’t get my head around how fantastic the mentors are. They’ve been through it all. They sympathize with and motivate you through the tough patches of starting a business.”
Rob is eager to continue growing CARL’s impact on patient experiences.
“Hearing loss is a challenging and upsetting life event. If we can give our patients heightened confidence and add value to their lives, that’s really our main goal,” Rob explains. “I also want to help change the perception of hearing aids. Most people think hearing aid and they instantly picture a clunky device that they believe only elderly people wear, but that’s not the case. Hearing aids are for anyone with hearing challenges. They’re small and discrete now—they can even be controlled by your phone.”
In August of 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed the Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act into law. The Act will enable adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase OTC hearing aids without the formerly required assistance of a hearing healthcare professional. The FDA was given until August 18, 2020 to create a proposed rule defining an OTC class of hearing aids; their exact definition has yet to be determined. In short, Americans will soon be able to purchase hearing aids the same way they can currently buy glasses.
“I like to compare hearing aids and hearing to glasses and vision,” Rob begins. “We know that one third of people who buy over-the-counter glasses end up buying prescription glasses within six months. It is fair to assume that, ultimately, hearing aids will report similar numbers.”
Heightening the need for CARLs in pharmacies, clinician offices and universities alike.
“Consumers should always be able to view the product, try it on, see what it looks like, understand how it feels, and figure out how to properly use it,” he says. “There’s tremendous potential for CARL in this client-facing application.”
“I’m excited for where I’m going, but I’m also really happy with where I am. The Accelerator Centre is a really inspiring place to be. There are so many people that are here to help you who genuinely care about your success. The cash from AC JumpStart is fantastic but it’s the people and the environment that keep you going. I’ve learned that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that the only way to start a business is by talking to people, getting different opinions and learning as much as you possible can.”
If you’re a patient, healthcare professional, researcher, professor, or an audiology enthusiast, you are encouraged to connect with Rob; he welcomes all questions and opinions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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