Oberkotter Foundation

Guiding families through a broken healthcare system

An excited adult holding an infant wearing hearing aids


  1. Audience Discovery
  2. Journey Mapping
  3. Segmentation and Personas
  4. Qualitative, Quantitative, and Secondary Research
  5. Design Principles
  6. Ideation/Co-creation
  7. Linear Awareness Tracker

Hearing loss is the most common newborn developmental emergency. Despite the importance and the urgency of newborn hearing, almost 40% of babies who failed newborn hearing screenings don't get the critical help they need. Oberkotter Foundation and FiveStone partnered together to understand the challenges and create a solution that supports babies who are born DHH (deaf or hard of hearing).

An integrated, phased approach

Our solution was driven by human-centered design and included a coordinated ecosystem of tactics to address each of the significant barriers families encounter. These tactics guide families through awareness, information, and logistical challenges for a timely and efficient journey to hearing.

Ecosystem on tablet

The challenge
Timing is critical

The first weeks and months of life are a crucial window for brain growth—and hearing is an important part of that development. Most babies born in the U.S. receive a Newborn Hearing Screening directly after birth. But then the process gets hairy.

The subsequent system is difficult for parents to navigate and causes delays in receiving treatments such as cochlear implants.

Gathering insights
In-depth ethnographic research

FiveStone conducted interviews and surveys with new and expectant parents and HCPs (Healthcare Providers, like Pediatricians and Pediatric Audiologists), and the government organizations who oversee best protocol and data collection. We looked to understand the state of newborn hearing attitudes and behaviors. Then, we led in-home ethnographic research that allowed us to talk to families whose babies had failed the hearing screening. We explored what compelled some of them to follow up quickly… and why some of them waited.

Slideshow of interviewees, children, and families

Uncovering a variety of experiences

Since hearing loss affects families from all walks of life, effective insights required research from a wide array of demographics and backgrounds. Interviews included those from inner cities, rural areas, migrant farmers, the highly affluent, poverty-stricken, non-English speakers, and those that were already DHH-informed.

Journey mapping
Designing an experience for families

The research revealed insights into the family journey, including challenges/barriers and drivers/influencers toward a successful outcome.

Visual Journey Map including Key Inputs
Three Visual Journey Maps including Deviations and Barriers, Ideas and Design Principles, and Impact Potential

Insights and opportunities
Identifying and prioritizing opportunity areas

We learned all about the complex system that parents face— misinformation, red-tape, and a general lack of agreement among professionals. We then developed and tested a set of concepts with new and expectant parents to see which ideas would be most effective.

Powered by insights and guided by five design principles, initial concepts addressed every major opportunity along the family journey. Additional research and audience testing helped prioritize the solution set based on viability, feasibility and desirability.

Woman and man reviewing concepts in a room

The outcome
A strategy for guiding parents

Extended research and concept development led FiveStone to produce a three-part strategy. The solution focused on raising awareness of the importance of screening follow-ups, developing good accessible information around the topic, and providing logistical support to help parents respond.

The strategy helped counter the broken system and inform a national awareness campaign, ultimately leading babies to receive a timely diagnosis.

parent and child with hearing technology playing
"The FiveStone work shaped the way we think about the activities of the foundation in new and unexpected ways and we continue to leverage the insights gained. The work has been invaluable and continues to pay dividends in framing how we carry out our mission."
Amy Newnam

Associate Executive Director, Oberkotter Foundation

amy newnam headshot

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