Millions of people suffer from hearing impairments and sound-related disabilities. From deafness to desensitized hearing, the list of hearing related problems is pages long, with many conditions appearing with alarming frequency as iPods and other headphone-based sound devices become commonplace.
But despite the overwhelming number of hearing impairment cases, a Colorado-based business believes they might have found the answer. The research and development sector of Otologics has designed an internal hearing aid device, produced with intentions of eliminating the problems often associated with traditional hearing aid units.
hearing aids are used by millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide, and have thus far been considered the standard for recovered hearing ability. Able to boost hearing sensitivity significantly without the inconvenience of a bulky carrier unit or major battery, many deaf people considered them the ultimate option for improving aural clarity.
But the devices aren’t without their drawbacks. Water sports and high-impact activities are difficult for hearing impaired people, with many hearing aids unable to operate when submerged in water or placed in sporting situations. Otologics contend that their internal hearing aids can eliminate the lifestyle annoyances associated with most hearing aids by operating 100% internally.
The implantable devices are placed slightly behind the ear, with an internal microphone picking up on exterior sound and transferring the information to an in-ear unit. A small piston moves inside the ear, transferring physical energy into detectable sound for the user’s eardrum and hearing passage.
Alongside their space age technology, the devices are renowned as durable and relatively effective. Clinical studies have pointed to a slight decrease in hearing clarity from traditional hearing aids, but many users expressed approval at the device’s limited size and simple operation. Batteries are charged by holding an external unit up to the skin, which charges the device’s battery in about an hour.
Stem cell treatments are also gaining attention. A recent Wired feature covered the potential of cell replacements for the hearing impaired, claiming that the technology could potentially reverse sound loss within the next two decades. The piece followed a research team at Stanford University, whose efforts using mouse embryos had lead to some interesting discoveries in the nature of human hearing and its ability to regenerate itself.
Researchers from Harvard University believe that the stem cell option could eventually replace traditional treatments and hearing aid units, becoming a cure by itself. While the scientific technology required for replacing human cells is still far from the level required, many experts believe that stem cell treatments for sound and vision loss could become possible within the next fifteen to twenty years.
However, today’s treatments are improving on their own. Far from their previously bulky appearance, today’s hearing aids are slim, compact, and low maintenance for their users. They’re also the preferred option for hearing clarity and performance; while test users spoke the praises of cochlear implants in terms of convenience, few claimed they offered greater clarity or sound quality.