With Laura Mather, Owner and Director at POW Hearing Solutions, we talked about supporting people with hearing loss and uncovered insights into adapting to the current macro shock.
About POW Hearing
Laura lost 25% of her hearing due to a noisy work environment, and it kept progressing over time. She explains that, for most people, "it takes 7 to 12 years to start to move forward on helping yourself to hear better." Indeed, transitioning to their new situation takes a process that includes dealing with denial and finding a motivation to move forward.
Hearing Loss Can Affect Us All
Hearing loss can affect anyone, even people who do not go to a loud concert or experience a speaker's or an instrument's feedback, Laura says. Indeed, "an extended sound exposure above 80 dB can [also] be harmful to your hearing".
Also, she warns against prescribed and over-the-counter medication that can be ototoxic. "In some cases, it can damage your hearing permanently."
People like Laura, who lose their hearing progressively, "might gradually withdraw from situations that put [them] at a disadvantage," without necessarily realising it. Often, "[they] will pick up other ways of doing things [and] work around it."
POW Hearing's Origin
During her post-secondary studies, Laura experienced first-hand the difficulties of following an event and interacting with a group of people in real time with impaired hearing. As a result, she had to put several systems in place to capture the ongoing events and conversations.
After graduation, discrimination prevented Laura from working properly, but she realised she could start her own business to support her community.
She has, therefore, built upon the knowledge she acquired during her studies and life experiences to offer multiple fit-for-purpose easy-to-use devices and services related to hearing loss. "If a business gets a request by somebody working with them to accommodate that person, to hear well at a live event with a large audience, for example, then they will come to [POW Hearing] to set that up for them." As a result, "people feel respected and cared for."
Laura is currently looking for funds and support with marketing. In the future, she is hoping that existing players in the hearing loss space will join her in her journey to help people in different situations.
Insights Into Adapting to a New Macro Environment
With COVID, Laura had to reinvent herself as she could no longer offer her services during events.
The key to adapting to a new macro context is to leverage your strengths vis-a-vis competition and rearrange your capabilities to avoid strategic drift. Usually, this drift occurs over a few years. However, a macro shock accelerates this phenomenon, and companies might have to adapt overnight.
Laura probably saved her business by offering "clear window lip reader face masks" to foster accessible communication and adapt to her new situation.
Interestingly, these masks also have the side effect of enabling human interactions and facilitating communication, even for people with perfect hearing, which further increases her solution's relevance.
A lot of people are lowering their masks. This is negating every safety feature put in place! If I am crossing the street, wearing this mask, I have people stop me and say, where did you get that?
Inspiration to Go!
For someone who has hearing loss, Laura highlights that one size does not fit all. You can start by asking them what they need. "I can give you a list, but it is not going to work," she says.
Overall, if you look at how people can communicate with you, you should offer a way that does not involve them to hear—for instance, an email address instead of a phone number only.
People who have hearing loss can do everything that people who do not have hearing loss can do, except they cannot hear!
Thanks so much for reading this post!
If you are a social entrepreneur and would like to share your story, reach out to me via LinkedIn. I am looking forward to it!