Researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Berlin have designed highly efficient, low-maintenance small hearing aids, also known as hearing aid microsystems.
Small Hearing Aids: The Newest Innovation
Hearing loss has become a common medical condition throughout Germany: roughly 20 percent of individuals aged 15 or older have been treated for hearing loss symptoms.
Scientists at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft designed a small hearing aid device that could fit 19 components into a single module, making it a very non-invasive, comfortable device when in use.
The hearing aid, a fortunate result of the EU WiserBAN project, is fifty times smaller than other types of body area network (BAN) electronics and consumes significantly less energy, limiting the number of times it needs to be recharged and replaced.
The hearing aid has dimensions of 4x4x1 millimeters, making it less than one-sixth of an inch long. The microsystem is so small that it isn’t visible from the outer surface of the ear.
How the Small Hearing Aid Works
Researchers first started to miniaturize the hearing aid by making different components of the device smaller. The circuitry, antennas, and high-frequency filters that normally made up the hearing aid became more compact.
They found that by stacking smaller modules on top of one another, they could create a device with an amazing performance that occupied a minimal amount of space. The device is small enough that it can be placed directly inside the ear and only needs to be taken out for recharging or replacement.
Small Hearing Aid Maintenance
Further endeavors for the EU WiserBAN project include reducing the energy consumption of the microsystem in order to limit the number of times it needs to be recharged or replaced. Future research interests for the project include engineering specialized antennae, creating other wireless services, and extending the battery life of these microsystems to about 5 months.
The new advancements in antenna and wireless capabilities would function to gather information from the patient, including blood glucose levels and blood pressure. This information can then be transmitted to doctors and their cellular devices for advanced monitoring. In comparison, hearing aids that are worn behind the ear usually have a battery life of 2 weeks.
Additionally, the more robust batteries found in many hearing aids are susceptible to excessive heat and humidity and can short-circuit if kept in contact with other metal objects. These batteries can also leak toxic alkaline fluids when damaged, which can cause esophageal damage and ulcers in pets if swallowed.
Small Hearing Aids and Wireless Connections
The wireless system feature provided by the microsystem is a welcome advantage because it enables the hearing aid to function without a relay station, an additional device that was necessary when using earlier editions. These wireless microsystems rely on other standards aside from Bluetooth, which normally causes signaling interference with other devices.
Alternatives to conventional hearing aids include bone-anchored hearing aid devices and, in the case of ear deformities, reconstructive ear canal surgery.
With the arrival of hearing aid microsystems, there are now less invasive and more convenient methods to combat hearing loss.