Hearing devices have consistently been getting smaller and smaller as scientists find ways to move away from clunky, large devices to nearly invisible aids. And it seems like the smaller they are, the more interest people have. My blog post on the Esteem implantable hearing aid has received dozens of comments over the course of two years since I published it and I've heard there continues to be a lot of interest in implants such as this.
Now researchers at the University of Utah have developed a tiny hearing aid which is implanted in the middle ear, totally invisible. The device has been tested on cadavers and the researchers plan to cut its size down to a third of a pencil eraser before they work on testing it on living patients. According to Professor Young, who is working on the project, it has an advantage over cochlear implants because there is nothing exterior to worry about damaging. However, because there would be a battery implanted as well, patients would need to "recharge" overnight by wearing a device behind their ear.
I can see a lot of interesting potential with this device. Whereas the Esteem can only help those with stable sensorineural hearing loss and normal ear anatomy, this device could help people who have degraded inner ear bones and possibly other types of hearing loss. However, the device hasn't been tested on a living person yet, so there is no knowledge of potential side effects or how well it works. This is something I definitely plan to keep an eye (or ear!) on.
(Thanks to my dad for sending along the Daily Mail article!)