Linda Burba, AuD,  Audiologic Services, fits teen entrepreneur Christopher Turnbo with a hearing aid.

Sonic Innovations Inc, Salt Lake City, will donate hearing aids to two Chicago teens as a reward for their contributions to an annual, citywide, business plan competition.

The company has partnered with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) program to reward Marcella Liggins and Christopher Turnbo, two 17-year-old students from the Chicago Vocational and Career Academy, for their innovative work in NFTE’s annual business plan competition.

Each student will receive a pair of Endura hearing aids and sonicBLU devices, a wireless communication device that allows users of Sonic hearing aids to wirelessly connect to Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and devices.

The donation will take place during a fitting session with Linda Burba, AuD, at Audiologic Services, located at 386 Pennsylvania Ave, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

“I feel great and am so happy to receive the hearing aids from Sonic Innovations,” said Liggins, in a statement. “Once I get the hearing aids and connect them to my cell phone, I will feel special and my life will change. I can’t believe I will be wearing a product that is like my business plan idea. It is like a dream becoming a reality.”

Turnbo said, “Life will be so much better because I won’t hear a lot of noises in the background with these hearing aids when I am on my cell phone. I am proud to know I am the first among my friends to wear hearing aids that have a Bluetooth connection. Now I’m thinking of how to connect an MP3 player or iPod to the hearing aid.”

Liggins was born with a hearing impairment, and Turnbo slowly began to lose his hearing at the age of 5. The students’ severe hearing loss requires them to wear hearing aid devices, and they decided that it would be nice to have Bluetooth capability embedded inside their hearing aid so they could hear clearer when talking on their cell phones. Liggins and Turnbo joined forces and developed a business plan for a hearing aid company that would develop state-of- the-art communications for people who are hearing-impaired. The team entered its plan in the NFTE business competition where they won first place in the semifinals and a consolation prize in the finals.

“Sonic received a call from one of our investors who is also on the NFTE board and was judging the student competition," said Paul Wennerholm, Sonic Innovations’ president and COO. "He was touched by the students’ excitement and passion to help people, especially teens, who are hearing-impaired. The investor knew that Sonic had already developed the technology the teens had imagined through our sonicBLU device, and he hoped we could help these students.

"We at Sonic knew these innovative teens could benefit from our product, and we decided it would be a great opportunity for us to help them with a donation of our Endura hearing aids and sonicBLU devices," Wennerholm added. "We thank Dr Burba for helping us make this donation possible for these two deserving teens.”

Wennerholm noted that research indicates that about two to three out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born deaf or hard-of-hearing. "At Sonic, we know how important it is for children to hear when learning vocabulary, grammar, and other aspects of verbal communication," he said. "We hope our devices will help our younger population enjoy a better quality of life.”

NFTE is a national teen entrepreneurship program taught at 33 Chicago public high schools, reaching 2,000 students. NFTE trains Chicago public school teachers to teach students real-life business skills, such as how to build and run their own business. Young people in the program create a concept for a business, after which their teachers take them through the process of creating a business plan and how to sell their products and services. “The secret to NFTE is using entrepreneurship education to engage young people in school by following a reality based curriculum," said Christine Poorman, executive director, NFTE Chicago. "We teach them about the market economy and give them an entrepreneurial mindset to be successful in life.”

[Source: Sonic Innovations]