Amanda Philpott (Co-Founder and CEO, eargym)

Amanda is an ex-NHS CEO and population health strategist with almost 30 years' experience working in healthcare. After discovering she was losing her hearing, she joined forces with co-founder Andy Shanks to launch hearing tech platform eargym. The platform aims to address the hearing loss epidemic and empower people to protect and proactively improve their hearing.

Image: Amy Mace
Image: Amy Mace

Can you explain your job to a five-year-old? 

Hearing loss can really affect our emotional and mental well-being. eargym creates auditory training games that people can play on their smartphones to test and train their hearing and reduce the risk of hearing loss. 

What excites you most about your job?

That we’re addressing the elephant in the room. Hearing loss remains a severely overlooked and under-discussed area of healthcare. Yet the World Health Organisation estimates it already affects 1.5 billion people globally. Unfortunately, age-related stigma and a lack of information about hearing loss symptoms and consequences mean many people delay seeking help, making preventable hearing loss all too common. The impacts are significant: hearing loss can lead to social withdrawal, difficulty remaining in work, and is the biggest amenable factor in 8% of all dementias. eargym is empowering people to take back control and proactively protect and improve their long-term hearing health. 

Our interactive hearing tests and auditory training games help to strengthen auditory processing skills, such as sound detection and intelligibility, by simulating real-world listening scenarios. Engaging with the platform is an easy way for people to monitor their hearing health, get advice and guidance about next steps where seeing a professional face-to-face might help, and reduce their long-term risk of hearing loss, as well as the social and cognitive difficulties that can come as a consequence of this. 

Which trend will change the future of medicine? 

As health becomes increasingly digitized, we’re seeing a definite shift from condition-centered to person-centered care. More and more people are using technology to monitor and manage their own health—whether that be through smartwatches, or other health trackers and implants worn around the neck, chest or even in the ear. 

Wearable devices can give a more detailed insight into individual health that can help personalize the way care is delivered. For example, health professionals can use the data provided by these devices when conducting remote digital consultations to gain a clear picture of a patient’s condition and make an accurate diagnosis, without needing to see the patient face-to-face. Having a more consistent stream of data on a patient’s health can also help to improve monitoring over time—enabling clinicians to tailor treatments and spot signs for concern much sooner.

Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated? 

There is a lot of discussion about the risks of over-reliance on our smartphones, but we underestimate the power of a smartphone as an enabler of good health. We’re living in a world where people are becoming increasingly interested in, and engaged with, their own health. Since the pandemic, with pressure on services leading to record wait lists and treatment delays making traditional care services harder to access, we’re seeing a rise in the number of people taking their health into their own hands. Smartphones offer the perfect portal through which health services can be accessed remotely. Their role in improving population health has soared in importance. Smartphones are enabling personalized care to be delivered directly to patients, wherever they are. 

This is what we’re doing at eargym. Our hearing health app can be accessed using a person’s smartphone and headphones, giving them simple, direct access to a wealth of information, checks and training activities that can help protect and improve their hearing. We are also able to flag when people may need face-to-face support based on the hearing checks they perform in the app. The platform enables people to check their own hearing regularly and spot any changes early. Recent figures suggest that 83% of users report an improvement in their hearing after using the app for just a few minutes a day for just 7 weeks. 

Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention? 

Initiatives working to deliver better health and well-being education to young people—from those at nursery right through to college and university—deserve more attention. Empowering younger generations to understand and take ownership of their physical and mental health from an early age is key to unlocking a happier, healthier, more resilient society. Young people need to be supported with tools to build healthy habits, improve their wellbeing, and know how to advocate for themselves when they need medical intervention or support. Technology is playing a major role in enabling this. For example, a number of digital therapeutic programs are being developed to support school children with managing stress and anxiety, the prevalence of which has soared across this age group since the pandemic. Tools like these can really contribute to improving population health and reducing health inequalities.

Where would you put a million dollars? 

Without a doubt, I would put a million dollars behind delivering preventative, person-led healthcare. As our population ages and healthcare services become increasingly stretched, it’s never been more important for us to find ways for communities to support people’s cognitive and emotional health at every life stage. Whether that’s hearing and brain health or physical agility and wellbeing. We need to be future-proofing our minds and bodies, taking better care of ourselves every decade so that we can live our later lives in the strongest, most resilient way possible. 

What's the best advice you've ever received? 

Put aside any ideas you have of what an entrepreneur ‘should’ look like. We come in all shapes and sizes. Launching my own startup in my fifties was a big career change, having worked in the NHS for almost 30 years (and for many of those as a CEO). Pivoting to health tech was a complete gear change. It felt daunting and exciting in equal measure. I wasn’t sure I fit the traditional startup founder mold—I certainly wasn’t your typical “tech bro.” But I jumped in, embraced the challenge, and I haven’t looked back since. 

The best thing you can do as a first-time founder is to let go of any preconceptions you may have and simply embrace where you are, even if that feels like square one. From here, you’ll find yourself on a steep—but incredibly rewarding—learning curve that will help you define your own unique path as a founder. 

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