Personalized hearing aids can be costly for millions of people around the world who are experiencing hearing loss.
Due to this invention, there could be a massive drop in the prices of custom hearing aids. A hearing aid open-source it could bring the price below one dollar.
“The challenge we set ourselves was to build a minimalist hearing aid that would be useful to millions of people who could use it.” say Saad Bhamla, assistant professor at the School of Chemistry and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, co-author of a construction about the project published in PLOS ONE magazine.
Hearing aids tend to be expensive, as they need to be adapted to certain wearers. Increasing the wrong frequencies could, in fact, make speech comprehension even more difficult.
Bhamla and his team decided to improve age-related hearing loss. To simplify the design, the team gave up digital signal processors and instead chose simple electronic filters to adjust the frequency response.
Purpose: a hearing aid at the price of a coffee
“Taking a standard process such as linear signal response and modeling it using filters dramatically reduces the cost and effort required for programming,” said Soham Sinha, the first author of the paper and now a doctoral student at Stanford. The device is amazingly simple and easy to install. It consists of a 3D printed housing and powered by a simple battery.
For just a dollar, the new design isn’t exactly Rolls-Royce hearing aids, but it does its job. It’s like “buying a basic car versus a luxury car,” according to Vinaya Manchaiah, a team member and professor of speech and hearing sciences at Lamar University.
“When it comes to hearing aids, even the smallest technology is quite expensive for people in many parts of the world,” Manchaiah said. “We may not need to have the best technology or the best device to provide value and a good hearing experience.”
“We have shown that it is possible to build a hearing aid at lower prices than the price of a cup of coffee,” Bhamla said. “This is a first step, a platform technology and we have shown that low cost does not have to mean low quality.” The team is now working to miniaturize the concept, which could raise the price to a still reasonable price of $ 7.