Young Scientist entry evolves into tech company


12 Jan 2010

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A joint runner-up in last year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition has emerged triumphant as a new web-based company, Restored Hearing.

Restored Hearing evolved from a student project investigating a low-frequency therapy for temporary tinnitus in last year’s Young Scientist Exhibition and is one of the companies showcasing at the 2010 exhibition.

The company, which originated in Co Sligo, has also become a client company of NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre at University College Dublin. One of the company co-founders is now a first-year undergraduate physics student at UCD.

Eimear O’Carroll, Rhona Togher, Niamh Chapman, then sixth-year Leaving Certificate students in the Ursuline College, Sligo, together with Anthony Carolan, their physics teacher, entered the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2009 with a project entitled ‘The Sound of Silence – An Investigation into Low Frequency Therapy for Tinnitus Sufferers’.

Since last January, Eimear, Rhona and Anthony further developed the project, incorporating as Restored Hearing in May 2009, and formally launching in August.

The company subsequently received international interest and sales in UK/Ireland, Europe, North America and Australia. Following a "live-test" of the company’s therapy on national Dutch TV last November, Restored Hearing also saw a significant boost in sales in the Netherlands.

Ringing in the ears

Temporary tinnitus, or "ringing in the ears" is caused by exposure to loud environments, for example, listening to loud music at concerts or on iPods or operating loud machinery.  

In such noisy environments, damage is done to the sound receptor cells in the cochlea. The cochlea is that part of the ear which converts wave-vibrations into electric signals before sending these signals onto the brain. 

When these receptor cells, or tiny hairs, get bent or damaged during exposure to the loud noises, signals continue to be sent to the brain even after the exposure to the noise has ceased. This results in a continued perception of a noise that isn’t there.

Therapy sessions

To alleviate this problem and to assist sufferers, Restored Hearing offers online and tailored minute-long therapy sessions aimed at individuals who want to clear their ears of the "ringing" sensation and regain "buzz free" hearing. 

The therapy is based on sound and wave theory, using a low hum to physically stimulate the cochlear hairs back into their original upright position.

The therapy sessions, which Restored Hearing says have a 99pc success rate, can be purchased singly by SMS payment or in batches of 10 using a credit card.

Restored Hearing has also recently launched a subscription payment that provides monthly, quarterly or annual use of the sound therapy.

Genuinely surprised

“We are delighted to be exhibiting at this year’s exhibition. We’re genuinely surprised that we have gone from a school project to a corporate exhibitor in one year but this illustrates the importance of the competition,” said Eimear O’Carroll, co-founder of Restored Hearing.

In December, Restored Hearing won the Emerging Technology Award in the Connacht Regional Final of the Ulster Bank Achievers Awards, and will take part in the national finals in March.

2010 and beyond

During 2010, the company intends to continue researching the therapy’s effects for the sufferers of permanent tinnitus.

In addition to running the company, Rhona and Eimear are continuing their studies and are undergraduate physics students in University College Dublin and University of Edinburgh respectively.

Restored Hearing has been supported by the Sligo County Enterprise Board and the Business Innovation Centre, Sligo IT.

The company will be exhibiting at stand 28 at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2010, which takes place in the Main Hall, RDS, Dublin from 12-16 January.

Photo: At NovaUCD are (from left) Rhona Togher, Anthony Carolan and Eimear O’Carroll, co-founders of Restored Hearing 

Photo by Nick Bradshaw

Article courtesy of businessandleadership.com