3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, helps to create hearing aids that provide a perfectly customizable fit. This technology isn’t really new, as it’s been used in the manufacture of hearing aids for quite some time. However, the process is attracting more attention as the technology gets better and better. Additive manufacturing involves adding to a product layer by layer rather than cutting away at it with tools like lathes. It’s used in all sorts of industries but its use in the hearing aid sector gets the most attention because of its precision. Helping people hear better is the aim of this technology, which is important to the more than 35 million people in this country who suffer from hearing impairments. As such, there is a great need to offer more efficient, better working hearing aids that use the very best in technology.
How it Works
Hearing aids have been using the process of 3D printing for many years, a necessary process due to the customized nature of these devices to an individual’s ear. When hearing aids are developed using processes like additive manufacturing, they ensure a better fit and a superior level of comfort for the person using them. Used in tandem with 3D laser scanning, all it takes is less than a day to complete. Audiologists first create what’s called a pointcloud, which is essentially a digital image of the ear using a laser scanner. Once that’s done and the audiologist has conducted a quality check, he can make the model. Our of the printer comes a shell or mold of the hearing aid made out of resin that can be fitted with acoustic vents, electronics and other components. An amazing 150,000 points of reference are obtained via digital cameras to assist in applying the template to the mold. Several geometric patterns and combinations are tested before the final shell is printed, resulting in a superior product when it comes to efficiency and quality. The circuitry is then added to the shell, which provides the hearing aid’s road map and amplifies the sound. Did you know that 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are in circulation within the hearing impaired community today? Some say that science has commandeered what was once thought of as an art form. However, the speed and efficiency with which this technology has pushed the hearing device industry is undeniable.
Advantages of 3D Printed Hearing Aids
There are many advantages to using 3D printed hearing aids, particularly the ability to customize the product specifically to one person’s ear. This is a crucial component, as all ears are different in minute ways. If you used traditional manufacturing processes, it would be downright impossible to achieve a perfect fit for every person. Consequently, technology represents a big effect on the hearing impaired and medical communities as a whole. This formerly labor-intensive process is now an automated, more efficient one that takes a fraction of the time and offers practicality for a custom fit.