Carolyn Mee is the brains behind Sound Scouts, a game that detects hearing loss in children. A decade ago, Carolyn completed an Advance Diploma in digital media and she discovered the concept of serious games, games that utilise play to deliver more than fun.
“I was fascinated by the power of serious games and was very keen to translate this fascination into a project. Around the same time I discovered that hearing issues were a major problem amongst our indigenous population, I also discovered that in Australia, unlike almost all other OECD countries, we do not check children’s hearing at school entry,” Carolyn said.
“I was fascinated by the power of serious games and was very keen to translate this fascination into a project…”
That’s when Carolyn realised that a mobile game to make hearing testing easy and accessible might be a great solution to help elevate at least part of the hearing problem.
Initial challenges included developing a clinically valid health product and growing a company to support that product are too numerous to name.
“In the early days the greatest hurdles were associated with ensuring the product worked, that it delivered on the objective to detect hearing loss in children. There is an enormous amount of rigour that goes into creating a health solution, and staying the course to get it done can test the resolve of the most focused individual or team,” Carolyn said.
“In developing the App we have tested the hearing of over 1000 children, both normal hearing and hearing impaired, on both the App and with a paediatric audiologist.”
“The other key challenge is finding the right team members. It took me months to find my developer, now CTO, Cuauh Moreno, but the long search was worth the effort as Cuauh has been instrumental in the development of the App.”
Carolyn hopes Sound Scouts will one day be used as a hearing screening tool by all Australian children starting school.
“As a fun, affordable and accessible screening solution it would be wonderful to see the test subsidised by the government so all Australian families can use it, both at school entry and whenever they have concerns about their children’s hearing.”
Carolyn is currently working to release Sound Scouts into key global markets. In the US children’s hearing is checked multiple times throughout their school years and Sound Scouts will make testing easier, more fun and potentially more effective. In China hearing loss is the most common disability and yet there are few audiologists so technology is an ideal solution.
When it comes to working in the tech industry, Carolyn believes more women need to adopt the mindset that anything is possible.
“It’s important for women not to limit their potential. Anything is possible. I came from a media background and was able to transition into creating a technology product and running a technology driven business….”
“It’s important for women not to limit their potential. Anything is possible. I came from a media background and was able to transition into creating a technology product and running a technology driven business. As an older woman I was lucky to have the confidence to propel myself forward but given this isn’t always possible it’s important for women to encourage and support other women, and girls, in exploring and achieving their potential.,” Carolyn said.
“The number of women in tech is definitely increasing and as more and more role models become visible more girls and women will realise that the tech industry is an option and one that they should definitely pursue.”
Carolyn is deservedly very proud of the achievements of Sound Scouts and what she and her team have achieved.
“Knowing that we can make a difference to the lives of many children, children who may not have fulfilled their potential, who may have always felt they weren’t quite normal but are now able to get treatment for their hearing issues; that gives me a great sense of accomplishment,” Carolyn said.
“Technology is exciting. It can save lives, it can make a real difference and there’s no reason we can’t all contribute to its unlimited positive potential!”
What advice can you give women who might have a great idea for a tech business or app but not sure where to start?
“The place to start when you’re considering a tech business is research. Research the sector and really understand how your product will fit within the ecosystem. Understand how you will monetise your product and how you will market it. A great idea is just the beginning and the journey from ideation, to execution can be long and testing… and expensive. So the better your research, the better chance you’ll have of succeeding,” Carolyn said.
Carolyn said it’s also important to start identifying and assembling the right people to work with on what is likely to be a long journey.
“Where possible do a few small projects together to test your working chemistry. If you choose to move forward with a co-founder be sure to document your business relationship. I’d also recommend investing in good legal and accounting advice with professionals who understand the tech industry.”
“Also, be aware that you’ll probably wear many hats on your journey. There’ll be some roles you’ll do well and others you’ll struggle with and that is completely normal. Keep doing what you do well and pay for what you do poorly! And most importantly remember to have fun.”