Health & Wellbeing

"Hearing contact lens" claimed to outperform regular hearing aids

"Hearing contact lens" claimed...
A diagram showing the alpha hearing aid installed inside a user's ear canal
A diagram showing the alpha hearing aid installed inside a user's ear canal
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A diagram showing the alpha hearing aid installed inside a user's ear canal
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A diagram showing the alpha hearing aid installed inside a user's ear canal
The actual micro-loudspeaker is custom-made for each user
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The actual micro-loudspeaker is custom-made for each user

In most hearing aids, sounds emitted by a tiny speaker are directed down the ear canal. The "alpha" hearing aid is different, however – and reportedly better – in that its speaker actually sits directly against the wearer's eardrum.

Described as a "hearing contact lens," the device is being manufactured by German startup Vibrosonic. It incorporates technology developed by researchers at the University of Tübingen and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation.

The one external component of the setup is a battery-equipped signal-processing module that is worn behind the ear. It's hard-wired to a smaller module that sits inside the ear canal. That module is in turn connected to the piezoelectric micro-loudspeaker, which is placed against the eardrum.

The actual micro-loudspeaker is custom-made for each user
The actual micro-loudspeaker is custom-made for each user

When the system's microphone picks up external noises, they're relayed to that tiny speaker, which vibrates the eardrum accordingly. Vibrosonic states that because the transmitted sounds don't have to travel through an air gap within the ear canal, there's less distortion and less interference from wind noise blowing into the ear.

Additionally, it is claimed that the technology is capable of amplifying sound across the complete audible frequency spectrum – ranging from less than 80 hertz up to 12 kilohertz – which conventional hearing aids are unable to do.

Each micro-loudspeaker is custom-made to fit the uniquely shaped eardrum of each individual user. And although the internal components do stay inside the ear canal more or less permanently, no surgery is required for their initial installation. Plans do call for the system to be further miniaturized, which will include doing away with the external module and incorporating its functions into the ear-canal module.

Vibrosonic says the alpha can be installed in one or both ears, and that it should be approved for use as of this autumn (Northern Hemisphere). Pricing will reportedly be similar to that of existing high-quality hearing aids.

Sources: Vibrosonic, Fraunhofer

9 comments
9 comments
vince
They need to do away with wires and power an inner ear device via bluetooth and tiny 6 month batteries.
vince
And do away with behind the ear. Ever try to wear a covid mask and stretch eleastic bands behind ead and try to prevent the aid from gettong caught by bands? I ripped off my mask in a hurry once and slung my aid across the room into a pond. Aid didnt like the water.
guzmanchinky
This is amazing, I'm half deaf in one ear from a scuba accident, so this might be a great solution...
czechster
For someone with Menires Disease this would be great. BHE module would still be beneficial for Bluetooth communication. Looking forward to trying it.
MarkHughes4096
czechster I also have menieres and I have a conventional hearing aid, However I find my hearing is still quite distorted even with it, Louder yes, but still not good, Do you find ordinary hearing aids work well for you ?
Signguy
What about the earwax? How does that get delt with?
czechster
MarkHuges I have premium Phonacs and struggle with hearing people's voices. I am looking forward to test this new concept. Having the speaker in the body of the HA is not the best setup.
wolf0579
I'm 3/4 deaf in both ears, thanks to the Army. I used to wear in the ear devices, but got they eventually died, and I refuse to pay the extortion required to get new ones. The Corp's claim they need to recap R and D monies on miniaturization, but I call BS, seeing as how NASA did all of it for the space program in the 60's. The offshoots from NASA touched every single industry on the planet damn near. I used to get the NASA tech bulletin that came out every month showcasing new technologies NASA was releasing to the US business world. At times it was an inch thick with technical drawings and specifications.
Mike Vogel
So just the contact lens stays in and the the rest can be removed?