02 May Prototype Mic Implant May Revolutionize Hearing (Next Stop: Phones)
A new microphone that sits in the inside of the ear instead of on the outside of the ear – think hearing aids and Bluetooth headsets – has finally been introduced to the world thanks to an electrical engineer at the University of Utah. All the working external parts of the microphone have been moved to the inside of the ear instead so that users of this new chip can do everything just like someone who doesn’t have to deal with headsets for one reason or another can do.
These new microphones are still around three years away from clinical trials because of the inability to detect quiet, low-frequency sounds, however a size reduction seems to be in the works to improve the sound for this device all around. Sound generated via loudspeaker and general conversational volumes had a positive outcome, however, making this device appropriate for almost any level of conversation.
The device works like this: since a profoundly deaf person lacks the hair cells that movements are supposed to trigger a chemical that releases signals into the brain, this cochlear implant sends signals to implanted electrodes that stimulate nerves if the auditory kind. The signals completely avoid the ear canal and ear drum, but the prototype isn’t quite there yet, but that’s where the University of Utah scientists are planning to head in the next few years.
There are many people who stand to benefit from this technology and now are on the edge of their seats waiting for new developments. For the mostly deaf, this could bring the ability to have conversations at room levels back into the game – for the busy business man, this could mean they would never need to worry about where their phones are again.
The device still currently requires a single external piece that charges the unit. The charge typically lasts 20 hours or so, so nightly charging would be a must until extended battery life was implemented. So far, the device has only been tested on four individuals with good responses from all.
Hopefully this technology will hit the market with multiple functions and uses so all can benefit from the first in-ear hearing device that doesn’t let anyone know that the user is wearing it at all.