Thursday, January 24, 2013

3D Printing and Hearing Aids

Two men standing next to an example of a 3D printer
My photo of a 3D printer at an open source conference in 2011

3D printing is one of those things that still sounds like science fiction. A device that can create a three-dimensional object simply from a digital model? It sounds like the replicators on Star Trek, but really I think 3D printers are one of the coolest technologies to emerge in recent years. I even have a 3D printed d12 (12-sided die) at home to prove it.

There are many applications for 3D printing, from gaming to technology to the medical world. One example is this YouTube story (unfortunately only has automatic captions) of two-year-old Emma, who has a condition that prevents her from moving her arms. She has a 3D printed custom exoskeleton; the 3D printing aspect means that as she outgrows the skeleton, parts can be replaced on an as-needed basis. I can easily see the same potential in hearing aids.

The makers of the Roomba, the company iRobot, have filed a patent which would be able to print the entirety of an object made up of other objects. Currently 3D printers print out parts, which need to be assembled by a human. iRobot is looking to be able to print out an entire functioning object with the help of a new type of printer which would have robotic manipulators.

Hearing aids are also getting into the act. 3D technology is being utilized to customize hearing aids specifically to each patient, a process called CAMISHA (Computer Aided Manufacturing for Individual Shells for Hearing Aids). Widex holds the patent; there's more information about CAMISHA on their website.

In CAMISHA, laser technology makes an image of an individual's ear canal; that data can be used to produce a model by which computers can manufacture a perfectly fitted hearing aid shell or earmold. It sounds much nicer to me than the current process of fitting an earmold, which I get to experience next month when I get my current 3-year-old silicone molds replaced.

I can easily see 3D printing becoming a key component of producing hearing aids, not just earmolds or shells. The digital model for parts of hearing aids and cochlear implants could be easily modified to suit individual users, and items such as tubes and earmolds could easily be replaced as the user grows (for a child) or wears them out. We're definitely living in the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some Exciting News

I have posted about this on my personal blog, but just today I realized I have never mentioned it here. So, here is my official announcement - I am expecting, and due in July (yep, right along with Kate Middleton. My baby will have a few less names than hers, though).

Here's the latest picture of the kiddo at 12 weeks 3 days:

Ultrasound Pictures (12w3d)

And one from two weeks earlier (10 weeks 3 days):

Ultrasound - 10w3d

My husband and I are very excited and I can't wait to meet the new little one. I will try to keep my personal blog a little more updated as things progress (I am just now entering the second trimester).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

GN ReSound: The First Made for iPhone Accessory & App

Back in June I wrote about a tantalizing bit of information on Apple's website regarding "made for iPhone hearing aids." Now we are seeing the first results of this idea, in the form of GN ReSound's accessory, the Unite Phone Clip+, and a free app in the app store designed to allow users to adjust settings on their hearing aids through their iPhones.

The GN ReSound Unite Phone Clip+
An image of the ReSound Phone Clip.
The Phone Clip+ is similar to the Oticon Streamer and other Bluetooth accessories for hearing aids. The device clips onto your clothes and can assist in streaming audio from your phone to your hearing aids. 

ReSound Control App
This app is available in the Apple App Store and works with the Phone Clip to allow users to adjust settings on their hearing aid from their iPhones. ReSound says it will soon be available for Android phones as well. According to a press release from ReSound, "Users can control their hearing aids, phone conversations and wireless streaming accessories from their iPhone screen. No more fumbling behind the ear. No more toggling through programs. No more wishing it wasn’t so noticeable to use a hearing aid."

I'm excited to hear about new products and apps coming out in the wake of Apple's decision to touch on accessibility and hearing aids; I'm even happier to see Android apps won't be far behind.