You may not have realized hearing aids could be made from the process of 3D printing, but they can. In fact, it’s not even a very new concept and has been in deployment for years in making custom fit hearing aids. Perhaps you know it by its alternative name: additive manufacturing. 3D printing has been garnering more and more attention thanks to the increased precision of the process whereby products like hearing aids are built up instead of cut away with tools. Its reach extends to all sorts of technologies, from manufacturing to jewelry to electronics, but it’s especially helpful in the development of custom hearing aids. This revolutionary way of manufacturing devices like these is of paramount importance because it helps so many people to hear better. And with 35 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, this is certainly a goal of the industry as a whole: to produce more efficient hearing aids that utilize the best technology has to offer.
Benefits of 3D Printed Hearing Aids
There are several benefits to the utilization of 3D printed hearing aids, not the least of which is the customization factor. This is extremely important because no two ears are the same, and no two ear canals are the same. The use of traditional manufacturing processes is nearly impossible if you want to get a perfect fit for every person. This is why the technology represents such a high-impact effect on the hearing impaired and medical communities. What once was a fairly labor-intensive process is now an automated efficient one that combines technology with practicality for a custom fit each and every time.
How is precision achieved each and every time? A digital image of the ear canal is created using a laser scanner operated by a skilled audiologist. After a thorough quality check, a model is made from the printer where a shell or mold of the hearing aid is developed out of is resin. This material is flexible and can be customized with integral parts such as acoustic vents, electronics and other components. Digital cameras that assist in putting the template to the mold use 150,000 points of reference, testing various geometric patterns and combinations to get the most accurate final product. Sound, amplified through special circuitry, is the center of the entire device. This revolutionary process has resulted in more than 10 million 3D printed hearing devices currently used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals. This process has now been transformed into a near art form, and what used to take weeks now takes just a single day. Indicative of a huge leap forward in the hearing device industry, 3D printing allows many people to hear better in comfort thanks to the customized nature of these devices. Born of a need for a more accurate fit, additive manufacturing and 3D laser scanning are used in conjunction to achieve this incredible process.