How about stereophonic microphones on glasses frames (right and left sides)? Transcutaneous transmission of the signals from antennae in the glasses temples (the supporting arms on either side of the head) to receivers embedded within the person's temples would avoid the need for intact middle ear structures.
This is very new good news. This will greatly benefit the 220,000 people worldwide and will help them lead a normal life. Can't we re-charge this device by generating electricity using head movements ?
You have a rich blog and know a lot. My own pedestrian opinion is that any research project that integrates electronics so that hearing-impaired people can be helped is a good thing. Hopefully from all the research we will manage to arrive at a cheap, reliable and socially acceptable implantable acoustic amplifier that may make it possible for impaired people to hear. Is there a more commercially ready device out there now?
Research without a real purpose: This middle ear microphone reinvents the wheel, as it duplicates the microphone used in the Envoy Esteem implanted hearing aid, like the ones Sarah Churman has implanted in her, as we all saw in the viral video last fall:
What's more, this particular mic system does a rather poor job, compared to the piezo mic in the Esteem:
"To demonstrate the microphone, Young also used it to record the start of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony while implanted in a cadaver ear. It is easily recognizable, even if somewhat fuzzy and muffled."
Finally, the whole concept of using the tympanic membrane as a microphone diaphragm is flawed, as when there is suppurative or non-suppurative otitis media (middle ear fluid), the sound is no longer crystal clear, and becomes badly muffled. Furthermore, there is the issue of instability ("feedback") when a tympanic membrane microphone is occupying the same pea-sized space in the middle ear cavity as a mechanical transducer coupled to the oval or round window to provide mechanical/acoustic stimulation to the perilymph in the scala vestibule & scala tympani. [Of course, this does not occur when electrical hearing is being used, as the spiral ganglion is being stimulated by the electrodes in the cochlear implant.]
But implanting the microphone directly under the skin, like as is done with the Otologics Carina, has its' own issues, due to head noises and also the loss of any directionality and resonances from the pinna & canal.
Editor, The Hearing Blog
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