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Pinhead-Sized Implant Could Replace Hearing Aids

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the can-you-hear-me-now? dept.

Medicine 69

An anonymous reader writes "Depending on the level of hearing impairment, conventional aids may not be good enough and a hearing implant is the only option. Until now the required surgery to fit them has taken several hours. However, that is about to change. A new implant that can be fitted with outpatient surgery has been developed consisting of a 1.2mm electro-acoustic transducer, which is positioned at the so-called 'round window,' which is where the middle and inner ear connect. It then produces amplified mechanical vibrations that stimulate the auditory nerve. Even though the transducer is tiny, it can reach volumes of up to 120 decibels."

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With this pinhead (2)

Davo Batty (2855025) | about a year ago | (#43355847)

you can hear a pin drop

Re:With this pinhead (2)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about a year ago | (#43355865)

What? Can you speak up please?

Re:With this pinhead (2)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#43355919)

Clearly what you need is glasses!

Re:With this pinhead (1)

dintech (998802) | about a year ago | (#43356049)

Eh? What-what? I can't hear you without my monocle in!

Re:With this pinhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356261)

Are we talking about Sprint and that Murphy Brown lady?

Re:With this pinhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43357697)

Candice Bergen, Playboy Bunny!

Re:With this pinhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43357231)

What about hearing aids for pinheads?

Re:With this pinhead (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43357443)

we're near a thin rock? what? whaaaat?

Re:With this pinhead (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43357847)

you can hear a pin drop

Obligatory Nightmare on Elm Street [] .

I'll wait for Apple. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43355873)

Apple will release it standard with the iPhone 7

Re:I'll wait for Apple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356047)

Of course you won't be able to hear anything that isn't approved by apple.

Re:I'll wait for Apple. (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about a year ago | (#43358947)

I'm really kinda hoping we get a few more years before the surgically implanted Apple products arrive. First Apple makes surgically implanted monitoring devices seem cool, then the TSA requires them if you want to travel on commercial flights, then...

Re:I'll wait for Apple. (2)

dantotheman (2887483) | about a year ago | (#43363667)

...then you have to turn shut them down completely (not airplane mode) for take-off and landing.

Re:I'll wait for Apple. (2)

John.Banister (1291556) | about a year ago | (#43364771)

First you're required to have them, then you're required to turn them off. Sounds like a future I've been trained to be willing to believe in.

not ready for prime time, still just parts (5, Informative)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43355893)

Cochlear implants [] are required for some deaf patients, and those are the implants that require surgery. This PR bulletin from the Fraunhoffer institute is very cool, but it's like the retinal implants for vision, actually it's not even up to the level of retinal implants which are at least currently being tested. This implant system only has had its individual parts created.
Those individual components have not yet been put together to make a full hearing aid. This is just a proof of concept or feasibility study thus far. They still have to select the materials that will be used for the long term implantation. An assembled version may be ready next year. As for the extremely small size claimed, that small size is just for the "electroacoustic transducer" (the details in the PDF file says it's a piezoelectric micro-actuator). And the round window [] is already the part of the ear that bulges in and out as the oval window accepts input from the stapedius. So this adds pressure on the other side of the fluid column.
Experts are currently testing a first working prototype in the laboratory. Results have been positive to date. "The individual components of the hearing aid have all been developed. The next step is to optimize and assemble them," says Kaltenbacher. The implant must measure up to high requirements: the material must be encased so the body tolerates it and it has to remain stable over long periods -- after all, hearing aid implants should last at least ten years. The optimized individual components should be ready by June of this year; testing of the overall system is planned for 2014.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356201)

This thing vs regular hearing aid:

1) battery? Either the battery has to last 10 years or you have to be able to replace it.
2) amplification curve? Hearing loss typically has different attenuation at different frequencies, so modern aids amplify different frequencies differently, and some even shift the frequencies around.
3) programming? Okay, if it just makes things louder, it doesn't need to be programmed but typically you need to have some way to adjust the configuration of the aid, and if it is installed way way up, getting the programming into it will also be a giant pain.

But whatever. We'll have fusion sometime in the next 10 years too. Cold fusion probably.

captcha: decibel (didn't accept dB, sadly)

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (5, Informative)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43356411)

For 1, my best guess is that energy comes from an external transducer, coupled to a coil of the implant that can drive the actuator. Cochlear implants use this strategy (except they drive electrical impulses, not mechanical vibration)

Both 2 and 3 are handled by an external dsp. The implant piece is just the final acoustic amplifier / transducer; it is not driven by acoustical energy entering the ear, but by the signal being sent to it by the external device.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (3, Informative)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#43356257)

It's still interesting news, and good news. I knew an early cochlear implant user who had become deaf as a result of meningitis. He was stuck with a poor first generation implant - they were not exactly easy to upgrade.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356457)

I was implanted with implants in both ears just over a year ago. Overall, it is awesome - The biggest complaint is that my processors are not wireless and I have occasional bouts of vertigo... It sure beats utter silence and my family/friends don't have to put up with the depression that happens when you lose your hearing...

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (2)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43357515)

your blog doesn't give me the impression that they are great. Not to mention it seems like it'll look like you have grey pads attached to your skull, roughly?

Audio does not sound as good as it did before the implants. I deleted about 2/3 of all my favorite mp3 songs. They were just not enjoyable anymore... Listening to music on TV is not as good either - so watching American Idol and XFactor is not the same now. These processors can only process sounds to something like 300 Hz (don't quote me on that), but a cello is something like 65 Hz. So I don't hear cello in music."

I'm a cellist, so that means your idea of implants is explicitly a no for me.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#43358583)

These processors can only process sounds to something like 300 Hz (don't quote me on that), but a cello is something like 65 Hz.

A above middle C is 440 Hz. Two octaves down is 110 Hz. That's the lowest A on a cello. Just posting this to support your claim that the lowest note (C two octaves below middle C) is in fact 65.4... Hz.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (3, Insightful)

bdwebb (985489) | about a year ago | (#43361237)

They may not be 100% but they are something. Permanent silence vs being able to understand your family and friends or even your children again? I'll take some gray pads and disappointment with music.

I had a friend who lost his hearing and after 4 years of silence and one suicide attempt he had cochlear implants put in. Immediately after, his depression almost completely cleared and he was literally a different person. There are varying degrees at which implants do not make sense, also. For instance, my wife is deaf in one ear but to her, being able to hear in the one is enough (even though she can't tell where sounds are coming from or hear surround sound - I mess with her all the time of course) and she doesn't want an implant because of the specific reasons you quoted.

All in all, if you are completely deaf I think any hearing is better than no hearing. I wonder though...Beethoven was deaf and he composed some of the most incredible classical pieces of all time...if he had this technology available at the time, would he have given up on his musical talents because his pieces didn't sound the same anymore? I tend to think not but who knows.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43367891)

I agree with you on some points. Hearing aids are definitely an improvement over not, but the problem is that hearing aids are designed and focus on "people talking" which ignores:

people singing
anything outside the normal range of people talking, which includes pitches people talk at when they're speaking softly.
frequencies which you may be basically deaf for regardless of hearing aids because they just don't amplify them.

So they're really not "hearing aids" in the broad sense of the phrase which is what people expect (helping you hear everything), they're hearing aids designed to help you hear people speak. Which is fine for that purpose, but sucks for everything else. It also means they put in really lazy effort into them, trying to do noise cancelling to make speech easier to hear but simultaneously cancelling the sound of....speech.

Beethoven's music had nothing to do with his hearing, in fact when his hearing went down his musical skills went to shit along with it. Please don't let people mention Beethoven, he was a classical composer who then lost his hearing and yet is remembered for it.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43378537)

Are you talking about hearing aids or cochlear implants here? Obviously there's a lot of work being put into both, but CIs arguably have a more difficult set of challenges to face if you want to talk about sounds signals other than speech, which is relatively well represented in the field for good reason. Music is always going to be a huge challenge with current CI technology due to the inherent limit of how many independent frequency channels you can stimulate (it's usually around 8, which is abysmal when it gets right down to it).

However, for either hearing aids or CIs, I'm not sure I get some of your criticisms too clearly. People singing has a very similar spectral shape to people talking, and hearing aids designed for speech are likely to treat those signals quite well. Do people change pitch with softer speech? Regardless, the frequency distribution of energy in speech is less about pitch and more about formants (vocal tract resonances), so I'm not sure why it should be different. Could you elaborate?

Frequency range for CIs is a huge issue because the electrode can only be inserted so far, meaning you can only stimulate the higher-frequency end of the auditory nerves in the cochlea. For hearing aids, there's often a cutoff at 5-8 kHz, which is pretty low compared to what could be amplified. However there are many factors to consider; for example: Many hearing-impaired patients have all but lost the ability to hear anything much higher than that, so amplification may not accomplish anything and in fact may interfere with hearing at other frequencies. However I am of the growing camp of researchers that thinks the benefits of providing higher-frequency amplification is often underestimated in the field.

There are hearing aids designed with music in mind. However I can't speak to how well they work. I know less about CIs but i don't see how with the current technology they can even be very music-focused in practice

Basically, I don't see why you can just call the efforts into hearing aids lazy. I'd appreciate more from you on this matter. Although I'll definitely agree that many of the efforts at "smart" algorithms including older noise reduction algorithms have been flops to varying degrees. That doesn't make the efforts lazy, nor does it invalidate current progress being made.

Lastly, Beethoven was just about completely deaf when he composed his 9th symphony, which is by no means shit.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43385667)

As a musician, I wish I had more background in formant research but I digress. Singing does not *entirely* match the frequencies and thus formants of people talking, and music doesn't necessarily match the formants of people singing. Meanwhile, frequency range vs true functionality/accurate reproduction of audio on even the highest end models of hearing aids from today's companies are fairly poor and tend to handle a very limited range of frequencies (by design). This is a problem. Whether it's BTE, ITC, it doesn't matter. if CI's are even worse then I can't even imagine how bad it is to someone sensitive to hearing loss. I understand the benefit - surely providing hearing is a significant benefit, but yeah.

Music designed hearing aids? I had looked at them a long while ago, but I suppose if it has changed in the last 5-10 years there may be more out there than I know. I had forgotten about that. I suppose I am behind the times, so off to google I go :P

It's not that audio researchers are lazy - to them we owe many things and deserve proper respect, my focus is more of the companies providing the aids. Example: sonus, miracle ear (to directly name those which I've had such experiences). Lazy is not accurate. I suppose "not doing a good job" is more accurate, even when factoring technological limitations. I agree it doesn't invalidate where we've gotten thus far. Plus at the end of the day people aren't relying on audiologists with such companies, they end up relying on people who are not as qualified, so any excellent hearing aid (as designed) can be nullified entirely by the experience of the audio companies themselves.

re: Beethoven, I'm not sure if I had explained well, I suppose. Composition doesn't necessarily require being able to hear. I'm saying his ability to *conduct* and *perform* (aka his musical skills) went to shit when his hearing did. Composition skill is not explicitly music (performance) skill, it's more along the lines of writing or arithmetic.

Re:not ready for prime time, still just parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43358501)

I know someone with conductive hearing loss. They had surgery to replace those bones with a man made material. It was very very successful. While getting into the middle ear is out patient surgery, it's still major surgery with lots of risks and complications. So even if they get everything working perfectly, it's still a risky venture.

conventional aids may not be good enough (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355907)

thank goodness I managed to get infected with

I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (3, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | about a year ago | (#43355927)

What? All I hear is ringing! ;(

Re:I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355973)

What? All I hear is ringing! ;(

You should have answered that ringing. It was opportunity calling telling you that your ship had come in.

Re:I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356339)

Ring Ring Ring ... Banana PHONE!

Re:I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356563)

Here's an odd thing about tinnitus -- I've been deaf in my left ear since age 5 from the mumps. As I understand it, the swelling suppressed the blood supply long enough to damage or kill the auditory nerve. The ear mechanism is probably fine but I'm deaf for lack of a communication link to the brain. I have tinnitus horribly. Weird thing is, I perceive hearing it in BOTH ears. Go figure. Make me wonder if it's a phenomena of the brain center rather than damaged receptors.

Re:I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#43357701)

Yes, tinnitus is produced by the brain, not the inner ear. In my case I've had it pretty much my whole life. I was about 22 when I read a newspaper article about tinnitus, and was amazed. I had always assumed that *everyone's* ears rang all the time, had no idea that it was unusual. Now that I'm losing my hearing (hereditary factors) it's just getting worse.

Re:I'll take one to cure my tinnitus! (1)

arcite (661011) | about a year ago | (#43357795)

I have a constant ringing in my right ear, and little bit in my left. Thankfully its not so bad as to drive me crazy, but its always there, in the background. In other words, I no longer have a sense of true silence. I blame wearing a shitty pair of headphones with the volume too high while exercising. If only I knew the damage I was doing! :/

Keep Going (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355931)

Having severe hearing loss in one ear, this is very interesting to me, but honestly I would rather wait for results on current studies looking into regenerating damaged hair cells before pursuing this. The headline "Regaining Proper Hearing at Last" is in my opinion not quite correct; from what I can tell, they're just tickling whatever cells are left to stimulate harder than before, as opposed to restoring the full capability of input. Then you've still got signal processing issues like phase discrepancies, gaps in frequency coverage that need to be made up by transposing or saturating neighbor/harmonic frequencies, and all sorts of related hairy business. A big advantage here is you can break out the processing to a box with beefier DSP than you could fit in a BTE device, with batteries that last longer.

Definitely a step in the right direction, and by far better than similar solutions in the past, but still a long way from perfect.

Re:Keep Going (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about a year ago | (#43355977)

They're baby steps, but at least in the right direction.

Re:Keep Going (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43355989)

At 120dB seems likely that such devices will kill the remaining working hair cells.

Hopefully they can find a way to stop/slow "age related" hearing loss: []

Re:Keep Going (2)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about a year ago | (#43356017)

At 120dB seems likely that such devices will kill the remaining working hair cells.

Hopefully they can find a way to stop/slow "age related" hearing loss: []

I wondered whether the device was actually bypassing the hair cells entirely...

Re:Keep Going (2)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#43356271)

That was also my impression. The mechanical nature of it seems to do just that. It also seems to avoid other issues that current aids have as its not an indirect digital amplifier. It's a direct amplifier, meaning that it doesn't attempt to reproduce sound that has been amplified, it amplifies the original analog signal.

This would mean no signal loss at all (up to 120db).

Re:Keep Going (4, Informative)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43356471)

The hair cells are inside the inner ear, later in the signal path than this device, and are responsible for turning the mechanical stimulus inside the inner ear into electrical signals. This device bypasses the outer ear and middle ear (depending on the placement of the microphone). Bypassing the hair cells means directly stimulating the auditory nerves, e.g. with electrical impulses such as is done by current cochlear implants.

Also, analog amplification does not imply no signal loss even within its 120 dB operating range (due to noise, nonlinear behavior, etc etc). It is also practically a guarantee that any end-product using this device will employ dynamic range compression, among other things, that will result in further loss of information in the signal. Regardless, it is still likely that the signal will amplified digitally by the external dsp, then transmitted finally as an analog signal to the implant. However that's not in the scope of this research, which focuses on the implanted device (just the final acoustic amplifier, one of many parts of a hearing aid system).

(Sorry, I don't mean to be such a downer...)

Re:Keep Going (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356093)

At 120dB seems likely that such devices will kill the remaining working hair cells.

You might want to look into the meaning of "up to".

Re:Keep Going (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43358499)

If that is an ISP "up to" as in "up to X Mb/s" so often quoted in the marketing boasts, then we have nothing to fear regarding further hearing loss from this device. The implantee will virtually *never* see that much gain in perceived sound.

Re:Keep Going (1)

nottooloud (1444749) | about a year ago | (#43362067)

This is my trepidation about any conventional hearing aid. The cells are failing, the hairs are broken off. I don't think "hit them harder" is the correct answer. I'm holding out for regrowth.

Re:Keep Going (2)

poetmatt (793785) | about a year ago | (#43357935)

This is how they say it every time, unfortunately. Just like how every medical breakthrough is a cure for cancer, etc etc. "we'll restore your hearing!" "you'll hear perfectly!"

the reality: not so much. Many brands (and audiologists) are terrible at helping people hear.

I'm happy to see this move forward, but this solution doesn't sound as rosy as is proclaimed.

Re:Keep Going (1)

agamiyya (2888933) | about a year ago | (#43366737)

That's an interesting point - if a hearing loss is due to damaged hair cells, why simply batter those cells with more signal energy? The reason is this: there are two kinds of hair cells - outer hair cells (cells that vibrate in response to sound pressure) and inner hair cells (cells that send neural signals to the brain). Our ~12,000 vibrating outer hair cells are electromechanical transducers that change shape in response to sound pressure. The ear works because the outer hair cells feed signal energy into the input sound, making it clearer. Outer hair cell vibrations remove noise, sharpen frequencies and add color by way of harmonics and distortion products. If you have a hearing loss that can be treated with a conventional hearing aid, and your hearing loss is caused by hair cell damage, it is likely to be outer hair cell damage. Therefore, your hearing aid isn't battering those outer hair cells with louder noises. Sorry to say, the damaged outer hair cells are probably already gone. Instead the hearing aid is sending in a sound that has been reshaped and 'improved' to make up for the missing outer hair cells. That reshaped sound is then picked up by your inner hair cells, which are neurally-linked into your auditory cortex. Those cells receiving the augmented signal are probably just fine.

Hearing aids == ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356183)

Almost all other areas, technology has driven down the costs of electronics. Hearing aids still cost an arm and a leg (or maybe a kidney) and it doesn't make any sense. Why hasn't China flooded the market with cheap, high quality hearing aids yet?

Re:Hearing aids == ripoff (3, Insightful)

jewens (993139) | about a year ago | (#43356289)

Why hasn't China flooded the market with cheap, high quality hearing aids yet?

For the same reason they haven't flooded any technology market with cheap, high quality goods. Because that is not their stong-point. Cheap, questionable quality (possibly toxic) hearing aids would be their market.

Of course you won't be able to have a Chinese hearing aid if you work for the US Government or want to maintain a US security clearance.

Re:Hearing aids == ripoff (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#43356395)

I have an excellent chinese made motherboard that was pretty inexpensive....uh. No that was actually made in Taiwan. Never mind. That's the Republic of China not the "peoples" Republic.

Re:Hearing aids == ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356331)

When has China flooded the market with cheap, high quality anything?

Because FDA approval costs money (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43357871)

Why hasn't China flooded the market with cheap, high quality hearing aids yet?

I imagine that more of the cost of a hearing aid is for costs related to FDA or other regulatory approval (and economic rents [] that approved manufacturers collect for the fact that devices their have been approved) than for actual manufacturing costs.

Re:Hearing aids == ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43358601)

Actually, I think they just might have done so already. You know those thick junk mail envelopes full of coupons or handbills for discount duct cleaning, oil changes and the like? The past few years I've been seeing hearing aids "for as low as 150$ per ear!". Compare that to the close to THREE THOUSAND my local hearing centre billed my coverage provider, with another grand PER EAR being billed directly to a federal grant program*. Total cost 2470 per ear, and they didn't even throw in any batteries. The only freebies I got were the unusual battery for the remote control, a wee little pipecleaner doodad for cleaning the tubes and a couple of spare "cones" (the rubbery perforated bulb that holds the end of the tube in my ear canal)

*Note that mine are BTE, bottom range models programmed to only amplify higher frequencies and look visually identical to the ones on the handbills. Obviously I can't speak as to the circuitry inside, but the injection molded shell looks like it came from the exact same mold.

Bill O'Reilly had no comment (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43356311)

Especially when it was pointed out to him that this was a different kind of pinhead.

VERY Useful (2)

caspy7 (117545) | about a year ago | (#43356313)

Even though the transducer is tiny, it can reach volumes of up to 120 decibels.

We've found our next form of torture.

Re:VERY Useful (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about a year ago | (#43356377)

Some people can find the cloud inside every silver lining.

Re:VERY Useful (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43356393)

This is dangerous technology. When a hearing aid goes wrong (and they often do), you can just take it off and turn it off. When this machine goes wrong, you lose your remaining hearing in a rather painful way.

Re:VERY Useful (2)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43356605)

TWhen a hearing aid goes wrong (and they often do)

[Citation needed]

You'll probably be able to take it off just like any other device. The implant will be driven by an external transmitter. Remove it, or switch it off, and no more sound.

Re:VERY Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43361319)

barring that, Tinfoil hat.

From the title, I got a sudden mental image... (3, Funny)

QilessQi (2044624) | about a year ago | (#43356439)

....of Zippy crammed in my cochlea and shouting non-sequiturs at my eardrum.

Hellraiser (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43358417)

I immediately Ctrl+F'd this discussion and was surprised that nobody had mentioned Hellraiser.

What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43356447)

120 dB increase? Has anyone ever seen an old guy scream, and rip his hearing aid out due to it mis-amplifying the wrong sounds?!?!

This is insane. The patient MUST have a hard OFF switch.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43356585)

It is capable of producing sounds up to 120 dB (assuming they meant dB SPL, or equivalent). This is not the same as 120 dB of amplification. (This is why those pesky letters SPL matter, and I'm surprised a Faunhofer report wasn't explicit). Of course, then the device could potentially detect a 0 dB SPL sound and amplify it to 120 dB, but that's really no different than any current technology, and it won't, and doesn't, happen.

So no, I have not seen anyone who wears hearing aids or cochlear implants scream and rip off their hearing aids or transmitters due to obscene amplification. Yes, I know plenty users of both (mostly young though).

Lastly, patients probably will have an off switch, and will also be able to take off the transmitters just like a CI user can.

Super Hearing.. (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#43356999)

I could use that. :)

120 dB SPL? So what? (1)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | about a year ago | (#43357117)

Pretty much ANY transducer can do that... The key is the distance at which that rating is measured. For every halving of distance, you gain 6 dB additional output. Take a quiet 80 dB speaker at 1 meter, move it to 1 cm, and you've got 120 dB SPL. It's trivial to generate 120 dB SPL from an existing hearing aid - or this new unit - when it's placed in the auditory canal.

Re:120 dB SPL? So what? (2)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43357613)

The article certainly lacks a clear definition of what is meant by "it can output volumes of up to 120 decibels". I assume they mean something equivalent to a 120 dB SPL sound measured at the entrance to the ear canal.

Here's the thing. It's an implant placed on the round window of the cochlea. So we're talking acoustic/mechanical coupling of solids, not spherical wave radiation. Talking about placing this unit in the ear canal doesn't make sense and implies that you didn't RTFS...say it isn't so , Slashdot.

Also, even when talking about hearing aid receivers in an ear canal, you're not talking about free-field acoustics, but acoustics inside a squishy, non-uniform tube-like cavity. So no, you can't just move it closer to double the level.

Frequency response? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43357199)

I see no indication of what frequencies this thing will be able to produce; anyone have any ideas? Presumably, with its size, any difficulty would be in the lower portion of the spectrum, but I'm not really terribly familiar with transducers of this nature.

Even lacking a proper coverage of the range of frequencies of human hearing, though, it's always exciting to see progress!

Did someone say Metal Gear? (1)

ikaruga (2725453) | about a year ago | (#43357963)

I hope the plans to add a Bluetooth receiver are already on the way. An implantable Codec style earphone is much more welcome than those goofy Bluetooth headsets used nowadays.

And cue all the deaf people complaining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43358731)

about how this will further erode deaf culture and all that BS.
It's like people complaining that the toilet destroyed the culture of throwing your shit and piss in the street.

Hey, check out my new hearing aid! (1)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about a year ago | (#43361967)

Q. "What kind is it?"
A. "Quarter to four."

The device isn't replacement for cochlear inplants (1)

agamiyya (2888933) | about a year ago | (#43366841)

The device attaches to the round window. It might someday be part of a hearing solution that could offer new hope to those with middle ear hearing loss (simply because it bypasses the middle ear). The cochlear implant is different. The cochlear implant bypasses the ear. The cochlear implant delivers a direct electrical signal through a fine strand of several electrodes set onto the auditory nerves. It sends a signal from a external receiver through an antenna directly to the auditory cortex without using the original pathways - ears. In contrast, this devices vibrates the round window .. a lot.

Re:The device isn't replacement for cochlear inpla (1)

ozydingo (922211) | about a year ago | (#43366943)

Not quite direct to the auditory cortex, there are a lot of nerves and synapses between the auditory nerve and the auditory cortex. But this is just from someone who's been studying the peripheral auditory pathways for the past however long, so I may care a little more about those details than most :-) But, for example, there is a device called a auditory midbrain implant, that stimulates higher up in the signal pathway, but still far from cortex. Because of all the computations happening along the pathway, the differences are pretty huge when you start skipping stages.

But I wish I could mod you up for pointing out why this is very different from what "cochlear implant" means today. Not that anyone else is reading these comments anymore; I've gotten the impression that Slashdot has an attention span of about a day.

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