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3-D Scanner Maps Ear Canal to Improve Hearing Aid Development

By Stephanie Baum, 3/30/2013

In a move to disrupt the hearing industry, a medical device company has launched a a hand held 3-D scanner to map the inner ear to improve the quality of hearing aids. It’s also offering the platform to any hearing aid maker that wants it.

The medical device company received a green light for its 3-D Ear Canal Scanner from the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.

Boston-based Lantos Techologies’ 3-D Ear Scanning System is designed to be a more efficient way to scan the “ear toplogy” than the current approach, which involves the uncomfortable process of making a silicone impression to develop customized ear devices. Lantos’ technique involves a scanner with a membrane and video otoscope at the end. The membrane fills with fluid to conform to the ear canal. The video otoscope captures images and generates a 3-D scan of the ear in a process that takes under one minute, according to a company statement. Taking these measurements is key because,like fingerprints, each person’s ear canal is different.

CEO Jeff Leathe said as part of the process for developing the hand held 3-D ear canal scanner, they needed to create a video otoscope that could conform to their needs so the company will also be selling it to the audio industry.

In an interview with Technology Today, Leathe said: “Our goal is to replace the medieval art of impression taking. Everyone knows on a global basis that impressions are inconsistent and they don’t go deep enough.” He added that the scanner creates more real estate in the ear canal to the benefit of audiologists, ear bud developers and the security industry.

As hearing aids have become smaller and “invisible” they need to be positioned deeper inside the ear canal.

The device was developed at an MIT research laboratory and is expected to expand the options for hearing aids and lead to advances in earphone acoustic technology. Among the company’s investors are Catalyst Health Ventures, Excel Venture Management, Omega Funds and Mass Medical Angels.

Video demonstration (not captioned):

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