With 35 million people in the U.S. suffering from hearing loss, many are touting the relatively new technology of 3D printing for hearing aids to be a savior of the industry. While it’s not a brand new approach, it allows for a more efficient process of making and fitting hearing aids to each person. It’s also referred to as additive manufacturing and it’s called 3D printing. This process is pretty cool and more and more people are standing up to take notice due to the customization factor. It’s called additive manufacturing because it involves adding to the finished product rather than taking away, as in the case of specialized tools like lathes. 3D printing, used in many industries such as manufacturing and art, has been utilized in the manufacture of hearing aids for several years now. It’s’ gaining momentum as a revolutionary way to construct custom hearing devices.
Did you know that 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are being used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals right now? It’s true. While you may think that science has taken over what was once considered to be an art form, you simply can’t dismiss the accuracy, speed and efficiency that this technology has afforded the hearing device industry lately. Thanks to the highly customized nature of these devices to each person’s ear, 3D printing represents a big step forward in the industry. That’s because they’re made using a process called additive manufacturing, ensuring a snugger overall fit and a higher comfort level for users. When used with 3D laser scanning, the process can incredibly take only one day – something that used to take weeks. First, an audiologist creates a digital image of the ear canal using a special laser scanner to develop what’s known as a pointcloud, then he quality checks everything. When the model is ready to be made, the printer spits out a shell or mold of the hearing aid in a resin form. Then, it’s possible to add the right acoustic vents, electronics and other components, with 150,000 points of reference created through digital cameras to apply the template to the mold. Amazingly, countless geometric patterns and combinations are put through testing prior to printing the final product. This product, which boasts efficiency and quality, features complicated circuitry that acts as the hearing aid’s road map to project the sound.
Why 3D Printed Hearing Aids?
Thanks to the many benefits of 3D printed hearing aids, customization is at the forefront of the many benefits, which is imperative because no two ear canals are the same. As such, each and every hearing aid made in this manner is truly a custom fit. If you were to go with traditional manufacturing processes to create hearing devices, it would be extremely difficult to achieve that perfect fit across the board. The high-impact effect of this technology on the hearing impaired and medical communities has turned a formerly labor-intensive process into a more efficient, automated one.