About the solution
Vishal Rao, born in India, in 1978, is an oncologist who developed a low-cost prosthetic voice box, called Aum Voice Prosthesis (AUM) after a voiceless patient asked him for a more affordable solution.
The device costs about a 1 USD to produce and it was built when a patient of Vishal’s asked his for a cheap solution, as he lost his voice after surgery.
“The patient could not afford the expensive prostheses. He was so poor that he didn’t have money to even pay the registration fee at the hospital. All that he said was, ‘I have heard that they put a voice box here for Rs 50 and I have come to try it out”, the inventor recalled.
So the doctor took action. With the help of friend Shashank Mahesh, manufacturers, suppliers and scientists who donated their time, he came up with AUM, which weighs one gram and it takes only 15 minutes to surgically implant.
This device, made of medical grade, platinum-cured silicone, works thanks to a basic physics principle that sound is created when an obstruction is introduced to the passing of air. When the voice box is removed, the brain cannot communicate to the windpipe that sound should be restricted in a certain way as it passes from the lungs to the lips, creating the words we use everyday. So basically, AUM redirects the passage of air from the lungs into the oesophagus, where food normally passes, so that the obstruction of the airway can be used to create sounds resembling regular speech.
The voice won’t be the same as it was before the surgery, but the prosthetic allows the patient to communicate, especially if he can’t afford the traditional ones.
This innovation is being successfully used by more than 200 patients and the innovator’s goal is to reach thousands of patients.
“Government of India is in talks with me and has assured support to make this product sustainable and reach it to everyone”, he added.
It took the doctor two years to develop this product, with the help of his friend Shashank Mahesh, who is the managing partner and CEO at Innaumation Medical Devices, which produces AUM.
Vishal is now training other doctors in the country to use the device. “Right now, the team is ingeniously doing the boxing, packing and sterilisation of the product when it is sent across the country. When it comes to mass scaling, the government support becomes inevitable. However, the whole idea is that the one-dollar initiative will continue,” he observed, adding that however small be the support from the government, he will still have the charity component open.
This solution shall not include mention to the use of drugs, chemicals or biologicals (including food); invasive devices; offensive, commercial or inherently dangerous content. This solution was not medically validated. Proceed with caution! If you have any doubts, please consult with a health professional.