When you think of hearing aids, you may not think of mass production. That’s because each hearing aid should be fitted to the user’s ear, right? You’re right, but with the advent of 3D printing, the process is even further streamlined and efficient. Thanks to the innovative process of 3D printing and laser scanning, doctors can custom fit hearing aids that utilize state of the art technology through 3D printing, This method of hearing device creation has been in circulation for years when it comes to making anything from jewelry to art pieces. But now, it’s overtaking the hearing aid industry as well. Alternatively known as additive manufacturing, this type of innovative 3D printing has been gaining momentum as it gives a precise way of building up hearing aids through digital enhancement rather than cutting away layers which is what happens with lathes and the like. This method is especially helpful in the manufacture of custom hearing aids that offer an unprecedented level of comfort for many people.
What’s so Great About It?
Before final printing, several geometric patterns and combinations are tested to come up with a superior product in terms of efficiency and quality. With 35 million people suffering from hearing loss, this boom in technology has never-ending benefits for the hearing impaired community. But let’s back up a little: utilized together with 3D laser scanning, the process of creating a hearing aid just takes less than a day to complete. Audiologists are the professionals responsible for creating a pointcloud, which is really just a digital image of the ear using a laser scanner. Once that’s finished and the hearing instrument specialist has conducted a quality check, she can construct the model to produce a shell or mold of the hearing aid. This is made out of resin that can be fitted with acoustic vents, essential electronics and circuitry that help the device synchronize sound. A whopping 150,000 points of reference are used in the process due to digital cameras that apply these findings to the template and mold.
Necessary because of the highly customized nature of these devices, hearing aids should fit a person’s ear as perfectly as possible. The solution? 3D printing and additive manufacturing make for an optimal fit and ensure the highest level of comfort for the wearer, which is shown in the fact that 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are being used by deaf or hearing impaired individuals at any given moment. What used to be an art form has evolved into a scientific, methodical approach that promotes accuracy, speed and efficiency, with customization as the top benefit to this technology. It’s crucial to ensure each hearing aid is completely customized to the patient, as you can’t have a wiggly hearing aid or one that’s too tight. Traditional manufacturing processes often had imperfections that took away from the overall comfort of the user, so with 3D printing, none of those issues are at hand.