Perhaps you’ve heard of 3D printing, but in other industries, such as manufacturing and jewelry. But you may not have realized it’s being used – to great degree – in the making of hearing aids. Although not exactly a brand new concept, this technique is getting some much deserved attention in the medical community. Those with hearing impairments can now experience more comfort through the creation of state-of-the-art hearing aids, made possible via 3D printing. This process, revolutionizing the industry because of its versatility, speed and precision, is also known in the industry as additive manufacturing. What this means is, that instead of removing layers such as with lathes, you are adding layers. The result is a more comfortable, form fitting hearing aid that’s a custom fit.

Within a Day

When 3D printing is used to make a hearing device, such as for the 10 million 3D printed hearing devices currently in circulation throughout America, it only takes a single day. This amazing process completely revolutionizes the way these things were made. It used to take a very long time to create a hearing device and it still wasn’t a truly custom fit. Those labor intensive manufacturing processes are gone, thanks to the new technology that decreases in time for manufacturing plus boosts the precise nature of the hearing aid. First off, what’s called a pointcloud is created by a trained audiologist, through the development of a precise digital image of the ear via a laser scanner. After the comprehensive quality check to ensure proper fit, the shell, also known as the mold, is produced by the 3D printer and made of a flexible resin material. Once fitted with the acoustic vents, electronics and other components, thanks to 150,000 points of reference obtained via digital cameras, the template is applied to the mold to produce a virtually seamless fit for the individual. Audiologists, who test countless geometric patterns and combinations prior to printing out the final shell, add the complicated circuitry which codes the amplification of sound.

Advantages?

The main advantage to this process is customization. Thanks to this emerging scientific breakthrough, 3D printing has been quietly gaining momentum to increase the precision of the process. This hard-to-ignore component of the additive manufacturing industry is taking the hearing impaired community by storm. This approach can help people all over the world to hear better and feel more comfortable while doing it. This is a pretty big deal, as 35 million Americans have a hearing impairment, requiring a more comfortable fit through a unique hearing aid that serves their needs. The four major benefits of this technology are accuracy, speed, customization and efficiency – components that never could have been possible with traditional manufacturing, which was time consuming and couldn’t guarantee a custom fit. This is because every ear is different. Making a single hearing aid today takes just a few hours!