UCSF OHNS Team Member Wins 3rd Place in Medical Engineering Competition

February 21, 2024

What if AirPods could be hearing aids? That was what Nicole Jiam, MD (team principal investigator), and her team, Pinnacle, argued during the 2024 iHackHealth Appathon 3.0 competition. Dr. Nicole Jiam, UCSF OHNS faculty member, teamed up with Lourdes Kaufman (UCSF medical student), Amritpal Singh (UCSF medical student), and Dr. Alexandra Bourdillon (UCSF OHNS resident). They were selected as 1 of 10 teams to partner with UC Berkeley engineering and graduate students to create an iOS mobile app prototype to solve a critical unmet need in the healthcare space.

The Pinnacle team's presentation focused on resolving critical pain points that those with hearing loss suffer from, including the high cost of hearing aids and the negative stigmas associated with them. The presentation proposed a pure-tone audiometry app that exports hearing settings to the AirPods to amplify or safeguard hearing. These clinical settings also modify and personalize front-end sound input to improve music enjoyment. 

The clinical team collaborated with Apple to use its open-source tool kits to develop the hearing aid technology. The competition's Final Event involved pitching and presenting prototypes to judges from Apple, UC Berkeley, UCSF, members of the digital health industry, and venture capitalists. They won 3rd place based on the following 5 categories: demonstrated customer need, innovative solution, market readiness, effective use of Apple frameworks, and overall presentation.

As a winning team, Pinnacle won a Fung Institute "Meet and Greet" with CITRIS Foundry and UCSF Innovation Ecosystem. The team was awarded a monetary prize and will be connected with iOS developers at Apple.

Excerpt: During the 2024 iHackHealth Appathon 3.0 competition, Amritpal Singh (UCSF medical student) and Lais Conceicao (UC Berkeley graduate student), representing Pinnacle, presented a solution to use AirPods as hearing aids, addressing issues like cost and stigma, collaborating with Apple and winning awards.