Health Alert: Hearing aids

NATINOAL - In the United States, more than 28 million people have hearing problems, but that number could be changing. A group of researchers are developing a new type of digital hearing aid.

The monitors and instruments may not look like much, but they could help change the way people hear. ThE technology could improve on hearing aids currently on the market.

Dr. Bertan Bakkaloglu says, "By putting multiple microphones in a smaller area, you can reject noise coming from 360 degrees, however, then those microphones need to be very precise."

To hear the engineering researchers at Arizona State University, developing a better hearing aid isn't an easy task, size matters.

Dr. Junseok Chae says, "We want to make everything small, that you can fit inside a canal which is about an inch long, and .7 inch in diameter for adult case. So, imagine that you want to put microphone, circuits, battery, speaker, everything package in that size. Wow, it's challenging, yes."

Once the tiny microphones and speakers are developed, the next step is to make the device more comfortable.

Dr. Bakkaloglu says, "What we are trying to achieve here is, can we make them like a sponge, where you can basically fit it in your ear, when they're really small and it expands."

The device is in the very early stages but these engineers are optimistic.

Dr. Junseok Chae, "One of the satisfaction as an educator is look at the people as they are happy and if i just imagine that those people are happy with our technology that'd be just wonderful."

And it sounds like they are on the right track.

If the hearing aid prototype works, ASU hopes to get additional funding from the national science foundation.

The researchers say they believe their product could hit the market in the next two to three years.

Posted by Bryce Mursch