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Programming an artificial ear.

Programming an artificial ear

Hearing aids precisely fitted to meet a particular person's needs may be available within the next few years, says electrical engineer David P. Egolf of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The missing element, however, is a way of measuring exactly what's happening to sound inside the ear canal between the hearing aid and the eardrum. Clinicians would need this kind of information in order to adjust a hearing aid to fit the specific amplification requirements of a hard-of-hearing patient.

Inserting a miniature microphone into the ear canal to make these measurements is dangerous because of possible damage to the eardrum, says Egolf, and the microphone itself disturbs the air-pressure patterns in the canal. Alternatively, commercially available "artificial ears,' designed to simulate the characteristics of an "average' adult human ear and often used for testing products like stereo headphones and telephone receivers, don't adequately take account of individual variations. The answer, says Egolf, is an artificial ear that can be altered easily to match a particular person's ear.

Recently, Egolf and graduate student William A. Kennedy developed such a programmable artificial ear. In their system, a microphone (acting like an eardrum) at one end of a brass, cylindrical cavity, detects the signals sent by a hearing aid at the other end. These measurements are sent to a computer where a program automatically adjusts them according to data already collected and stored on the size and shape of an individual's ear canal. This makes it possible to predict the loudness of sounds at various frequencies that a hearing aid delivers to an eardrum.
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Title Annotation:individualized hearing aids
Publication:Science News
Date:May 4, 1985
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