3D printed hearing devices that slash time from consultation to product delivery

Customised 3D printed hearing aids and earphones could soon be a common product, thanks to start up 3D Hearables.

Using an iPhone’s 3D scanning function and a system that the start-up has developed themselves, the image is automatically processed to create the final device.

The total time that these devices could take to be made could be less than an hour, according to a statement from Swinburne University of Technology, whose research contributed to the project.

3D Hearable’s product has the potential to bypass the need for uncomfortable, physical moulds that can often take many days to be made. Alternatively, the hearing impaired have had to use pre-made ear tips which only come in a limited range of sizes and may be an imperfect fit.

“We all know someone who carries the burden of earphones falling out or being uncomfortable. For those who wear hearing aids all day every day, a poorly fitted device isn’t just uncomfortable, it becomes painful. So much so that they’re willing to give up one of their five senses,” said chief operating officer and co-founder, Damien Png.

The use of readily available technology such as the iPhone’s 3D scanning function removes significant amounts of complexity in the production of hearing aids, reducing the time from consultation to delivery from weeks to potentially hours, according to chief technology officer, Dr Phil Kinsella.

“The process for getting a hearing aid usually requires an audiology visit, a moulding process, and a one to two-week wait time. The automation system behind it allows [for] a turnaround time of under an hour, with most people opting for next day delivery,” said Kinsella.

With individuals listening to music at high volumes due to imperfectly fitting headphones, hearing damage is increasingly common.

“It is cited as the ‘next smoking’ and, with all this in mind, ear solutions that everyday people like and can access are needed more than ever. That’s where our technology fits in,” said Png.

Seed funding for 3D Hearables was acquired through Swinburne Ventures, which helped the research that Kinsella did for his PhD to lead to the current commercial enterprise.