Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magnetic Hearing Aid--New "Window" For Hearing Impaired

Date:
September 17, 1998
Source:
The Whitaker Foundation
Summary:
Imagine an invisible hearing aid that never squeals with feedback and digitally enhances speech while silencing background noise. Such a device is under development and has been tested in animals with encouraging results.

ROSSLYN, Va., Sept. 11, 1998 - Imagine an invisible hearing aid that never squeals with feedback and digitally enhances speech while silencing background noise.

Such a device is under development and has been tested in animals with encouraging results. Jonathan Spindel, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer and assistant professor at the University of Virginia's Department of Otolaryngology, is preparing to take the next step toward developing a fully implanted prototype for humans. "Our tests to date have shown that the signals produced with our magnetic hearing device are very nearly those of natural acoustic sound," said Spindel.

The unique device would capture sounds with a miniature microphone implanted in the ear. After passing through a small processing unit and an electromagnetic coil, both also implanted, amplified vibrations would be sent to the inner ear via a tiny magnet attached to the inner ear's round window, a thin membrane at one end of the cochlea.

About as large as a pencil point, the tiny magnet would send vibrations through the cochlea, the fluid-filled organ shaped like a snail shell, and stimulate its thousands of hair cells used in normal hearing. The new device is the first to use an electromagnet to stimulate the inner ear via the round window.

A major feature of Spindel's approach is that the device doesn't obstruct the normal hearing process. "Leaving the middle ear system intact and establishing a second independent input pathway to the inner ear opens the possibility for using the normal acoustic pathway and round window electromagnet simultaneously to establish constructive and destructive sound patterns in the inner ear," said Spindel.

The device could enhance the sound of a person's voice, for example, by generating sound waves matching those of the voice as it reaches the ear. What ultimately reaches the brain and what the user actually hears is the net effect of combining the natural sound patterns with those generated by the magnetic hearing device. In this way, the sound waves from the device amplify the desired sound.

To reduce background noise, however, the device simply generates a sound pattern that mirrors the pattern of the undesirable sound. In this case, when coupled with the natural sound pattern, the net effect the user actually hears is little or no sound at all; each sound wave is the opposite of the other and they cancel each other out.

Spindel said he envisions a human prototype with a separate external control device used to tune in the desired frequencies and tune out unwanted sounds and noise. Changes in the settings would be relayed to the fully implanted hearing device remotely. Further development depends on future funding, said Spindel.

Another advantage of the new magnetic hearing device is eliminating acoustic feedback, or the high-pitched "squeal." "Conventional hearing aids are essentially a microphone, an amplifier and a speaker, very similar to the sound systems at concerts or a public speech," said Spindel. And like those systems, he added, acoustic hearing aids are susceptible to feedback. With feedback, the microphone picks up much of the sound produced from the speaker and feeds it back through the system in a repeating loop, causing a high-pitched squeal. But hearing aids are much more susceptible "because the components of the system are so incredibly close together," said Spindel.

To overcome this, modern acoustic hearing aids rely on a very tight fit to ensure that the sounds produced on one end don't reach the microphone on the other end. But even modern, custom-fitted acoustic hearing aids can loosen with activity and become susceptible to the "squeal", said Spindel.

Because the new hearing device uses magnetic rather than acoustic vibrations, feedback is virtually eliminated.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Whitaker Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Whitaker Foundation. "Magnetic Hearing Aid--New "Window" For Hearing Impaired." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917080447.htm>.
The Whitaker Foundation. (1998, September 17). Magnetic Hearing Aid--New "Window" For Hearing Impaired. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917080447.htm
The Whitaker Foundation. "Magnetic Hearing Aid--New "Window" For Hearing Impaired." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/09/980917080447.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins