Game-changing hearing technology can benefit every baby born in Africa

Guy Merlin Ngounou’s Bendo enterprise has developed and patented equipment that tests hearing for everyone – from new-born babies to the elderly. Recognised as a considerable contribution to health systems, the technology is cheaper and more robust than existing products and its founder believes it can help Cameroon lead the way in hearing screening.

The inspiration behind Guy’s work, and the bright future ahead of Made in Africa medical devices, began in childhood. He knew what he wanted to do with his life from an early age: to improve the lives of others. Specifically, to improve the lives of deaf and hard of hearing people, having seen how something preventable and treatable could alter the course of someone’s life.

For more than a decade, he has been working with research centres, hospitals, laboratories and universities to test and develop medical devices focused on hearing.

When working as an engineer to fit hearing aids for patients, he was amazed when a doctor told him that nothing could be done for certain patients – patients who could not be helped by any hearing aid in the world. He also learned that most hospitals do not test babies’ hearing, even though it was well known that without early diagnosis and treatment they face a high risk of irreversible deafness.

Knowing that technology and surgery could change the life of a baby diagnosed as hearing deficient at birth, Guy was devastated by what he believed was an “avoidable tragedy”. How it could be avoided in the future was clear to him: an alternative diagnostic to the existing unreliable and expensive equipment, and educating parents about the importance of early detection tests. By making the neo-natal hearing test accessible and affordable, he could eliminate the risk of irreversible hearing loss.

Finding a solution to this dual problem is what drove him to enroll in a PhD at the école polytechnique de Yaoundé in 2015 and get to work on building affordable reliable hearing diagnostic technology.

3 years later, he had developed Son’OR, supported by the Swiss Embassy in Cameroon as well as EPFL Lausanne. With a much lower cost (20–25%) and greater dependability than its predecessors, the technology was approved by Cameroon’s Ministry of Health and rolled out in a number of hospitals in the country. Since then, he has been working with hospitals in Cameroon, Mozambique and Gabon to integrate the technology.

With detection as the first step in treating people who are deaf and hard of hearing, Guy has also undertaken the second step – developing the Balafon hearing aid. This will be the next step in his journey to improve the hearing industry in Africa.

In 2020, he won the PicthMyApp “OPEN INNOVATION” award organised by African Digital Story. Unfortunately, the arrival of COVID-19 interrupted the opportunities offered by this award, including a VIP pass to attend and participate in VivaTech in Paris.

Like many entrepreneurs, Guy has learnt that scaling and implementing a new product doesn’t happen over night. Doctors and parents are not yet familiar with the technology and everyone needs to be convinced of the benefits of a test. While cost is a less sensitive issue, it remains a barrier, with funding necessary to support parents and encourage universal adoption in African hospitals. Guy has run several campaigns to raise awareness around early detection and, importantly, to make it accessible to families who could not afford it otherwise.

In October 2022, a private foundation will fund a fresh hearing detection campaign in primary school in the western part of Cameroon and Guy hopes that other similar foundations or individuals (especially from the African diaspora) will join the initiatives towards more detection throughout the country and on the continent. It is Bendo’s hope that more and more children can look forward to a bright and loud future.

We are proud to be connected with people like Guy, his company Bendo and the important work he is doing to strengthen African health systems. Anyone interested in learning more about his project and supporting through funding or collaboration on the detection campaign can contact

Hearing Aid And Audiology. Handicap