FDA Approves Sale of Laser Hearing Aids The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the marketing of a hearing aid that uses a laser diode and direct vibration of the eardrum to amplify sound. The device uses a phenomenon known as the optoacoustic effect, in which some of the photons of certain types of light are ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   February 2016
FDA Approves Sale of Laser Hearing Aids
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  • © 2016 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
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Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   February 2016
FDA Approves Sale of Laser Hearing Aids
The ASHA Leader, February 2016, Vol. 21, 13. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB2.21022016.13
The ASHA Leader, February 2016, Vol. 21, 13. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB2.21022016.13
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the marketing of a hearing aid that uses a laser diode and direct vibration of the eardrum to amplify sound.
The device uses a phenomenon known as the optoacoustic effect, in which some of the photons of certain types of light are absorbed and their energy is transformed into sound-generating waves when the light strikes a surface. About 10 years ago, scientists began exploring how this ability to “hear” light could be used in hearing aids.
After recent clinical trials, the FDA gave the green light to the sale of the new technology for adults with mild to severe sensorineural hearing loss. The device includes a tympanic membrane transducer—placed directly on the eardrum in a non-surgical procedure—and a behind-the-ear audio processor that connects to an ear tip in the ear canal.
The processor converts sound waves into electronic signals, digitally processes and amplifies them, and sends them to laser diode in the ear tip. The diode converts the electronic signals into pulses of nonvisible, infrared light that shine onto a photodetector in the transducer, which then converts the pulses back into electronic signals that vibrate the eardrum directly.
The device differs from traditional air conduction hearing aids in several ways. The transducer is custom-molded to the patient’s eardrum and contains a driver mechanism that directly stimulates the eardrum, enabling efficient amplification of sound. According to the manufacturer, the technology addresses many of the shortcomings of traditional hearing aids: distortion, feedback, poor speech-to-noise ratio and clear transmission of high-frequency sounds.
The EarLens Contact Hearing Device is manufactured by EarLens Corporation.
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February 2016
Volume 21, Issue 2