Two Chicago Teen Entrepreneurs to Receive Free Hearing Aids Compatible With Their Cell Phones

Sonic Innovations, Inc. rewards teens for innovative work in student competition.

Jun 28, 2010, 07:03 ET from Sonic Innovations, Inc.

SALT LAKE CITY, June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Two Chicago teens will receive free hearing aids from Sonic Innovations, Inc. (Sonic), a global provider of hearing care services and solutions, on Wednesday, June 30 at 10 a.m.  The donation will take place during a fitting session with Dr. Linda Burba at Audiologic Services, located at 386 Pennsylvania Avenue in Glen Ellyn, IL.  

Sonic 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 city-wide 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.

"I feel great and am so happy to receive the hearing aids from Sonic Innovations," said Liggins.  "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 hearing impaired 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 partnered together 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 semi-finals 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.  He was touched by the students' excitement and passion to help people, especially teens, who are hearing impaired," said Sonic Innovations President and COO, Paul Wennerholm.  "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.  We thank Dr. Burba for helping us make this donation possible for these two deserving teens."

Wennerholm added, "Research shows that about two to three out of every 1,000 children in the U.S. 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. We hope our devices will help our younger population enjoy a better quality of life."

NFTE is a national teen entrepreneurship program now 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 then 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.  We teach them about the market economy and give them an entrepreneurial mindset to be successful in life," said Christine Poorman, Executive Director, NFTE Chicago.


Sonic Innovations, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, has international offices and manufacturing centers across the globe. In conjunction with their distributor partners, Sonic Innovations has provided hearing care services and solutions in more than 25 countries and the company's partners have prescribed more than 1 million Sonic hearing instruments. Sonic Innovations is part of the Otix Global, Inc. family (Nasdaq: OTIX), which can be found online at

SOURCE Sonic Innovations, Inc.