Amanda Philpott

Amanda is an ex-NHS CEO and is now CEO and co-founder at eargym: [the hearing care platform using video game-inspired tools to test, train and improve hearing health]. 

Amanda has first-hand experience of hearing loss, having realised she was experiencing age-related hearing loss during a talk on the topic from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) in 2019. She set up eargym in 2020 with co-founder and DJ Andy Shanks to tackle the hearing loss epidemic and reduce the impacts of hearing loss on social and cognitive health as we age.

Amanda has over 28 years of NHS experience under her belt, having worked in senior management across hospital, primary and community care settings. She is passionate about improving population health at scale and addressing avoidable ill health, social isolation and loneliness.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role 

I’m Amanda Philpott and I’m the co-founder of eargym. I’ve always been passionate about working in public health. I worked in the NHS for nearly 30 years, latterly as a CEO. However, I decided that I wanted to try something new and applied to take part in the Zinc Accelerator in 2020, a project aimed at creating businesses that can improve the quality of life for millions of older people. It was through this that I learnt more about the seriousness of hearing loss, and it was also where I met my co-founder, Andy. What really piqued my interest in working in this field was hearing a talk from the RNID, where I learnt that hearing loss is an amenable factor in 8% of all dementias. I also noticed that I was experiencing symptoms of hearing loss myself.

Andy and I decided to set up eargym together as we noticed how hearing loss is just not part of everyday conversation, despite it affecting so many of us – around 12 million people in the UK suffer from some form of hearing loss. So we set up eargym as a digital step by step hearing care platform to give people the practical tools to improve their hearing. Our mission is to help address the social and cognitive impacts of hearing loss. eargym helps people check and proactively improve their hearing through regular, daily practice using fun and interactive training games.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I’ve tended to follow a path of what interests me.  As I worked my way through the NHS I realised that what really motivated and engaged me was population health and prevention of ill health, and everything related to this broader field. But, I didn’t know where that interest would take me – and, if you found me at the start of my career, I would never have predicted that I’d co-found my own start-up 30 years later. As I mentioned before, I also didn’t discover hearing health as a field that I was really passionate about until later on. I have to thank the Zinc Accelerator for opening my mind up to new perspectives in population health and leading me to start eargym.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Launching a start-up is a really exciting opportunity but is also one that was uncharted territory for me. One of the biggest initial challenges that I found was figuring out how to market your product to investors. Overall, we’ve found that offering eargym B2B as a health and well-being benefit for employees is the most productive way forward, due to the extremely high costs of hearing loss to the UK economy – it’s estimated that hearing loss results in a £25BN loss due to early retirement and lost productivity.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Taking the leap to set up eargym with my co-founder Andy is probably the biggest risk I’ve taken in my career, but it has simultaneously been my biggest achievement. We launched in May 2020, and over 3 years later, have expanded to a brilliant team of 12 people working across marketing, product development, UX and research. I’m also proud of our partnerships with pioneering organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society to research the link between hearing loss and dementia. Taking the risk to step out and try something new by launching eargym has been so rewarding, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Curiosity – I love learning – and an ability to cope with failure and try again.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to fail, but you have to be prepared to take risks if you’re going to be the best you can be, and taking risks involves failure as well as success.  A healthy sense of humour is pretty essential too.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I’d tell them to not spend time preoccupied with self-doubt or imposter syndrome – easier said than done, I know.  But if you’re going to successfully move into the tech start-up space, you need to have conviction in your mission and the self-belief to achieve your goals. There’s no ‘right’ way to be a founder – I moved into the tech space mid-life, and was concerned I wouldn’t fit in as a ‘typical’ tech CEO. Despite this initial worry, I’ve learnt so much on my eargym journey already and am so glad that I made the move into the start-up world.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

It’s clear that the top roles in the tech industry are still suffering from a lack of gender diversity. The lack of representation of women in the top roles in tech is a barrier that we need to overcome if we are to achieve true gender parity in the start-up scene. There’s definitely been some conversation about these challenges, and we can help translate this into tangible change by encouraging women in tech to mentor others who are interested in pursuing careers in these industries, as well as promoting a wide range of opportunities for women looking to move into tech.

What’s in store for the future?

We’re really excited about what’s in store for eargym. We hope that more and more people will see the vital importance of looking after their hearing and join eargym. We also hope to partner with more companies to provide their employees with access to hearing training as an employee benefit. Our aim is to make hearing care more accessible for everyone and make it common knowledge that you can improve your hearing through training. We hope that this will significantly contribute towards ending the stigma surrounding hearing loss.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I always recommend Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on Body Language to anyone interested in getting started in business – it’s a great talk on how we can alter other people’s perceptions and potentially our own body chemistry through being more aware of our body language.

Read more from our inspirational women here.