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Preliminary Evaluation of a Light-Based Contact Hearing Device for the Hearing Impaired

Fay, Jonathan P.*; Perkins, Rodney*; Levy, Suzanne Carr*; Nilsson, Michael*; Puria, Sunil*†

doi: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e31827de4b1
Prosthetic Devices

Objective To assess the safety, stability, and performance of the broad-spectrum, light-based contact hearing device (CHD) on listeners with hearing impairment.

Study Design Feasibility study.

Setting Single-site research and development facility.

Participants Thirteen participants with symmetric mild-to-severe sensorineural hearing impairment had the CHD placed bilaterally.

Intervention A custom-molded light-activated tympanic contact actuator (TCA) was placed into each ear by a physician, where it stayed in contact with the umbo and a portion of the medial wall of the ear canal for 4 months. Each CHD was calibrated and programmed to provide appropriate broad-spectrum amplification.

Main Outcome Measures Safety was determined through routine otologic examinations. Aided and pre-TCA-insertion unaided audiometric thresholds (functional gain), maximum gain before feedback, tympanic membrane damping, Reception Threshold for Sentences (RTS), and Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB) measurements were made to characterize system performance as well as the benefits of amplification via the CHD.

Results The TCAs remained on participants’ ears for an average total of 122 days, without causing signs of inflammation or infection, and there were no serious device-related adverse events. Measured average maximum output of 90 to 110 dB SPL in the range of 0.25 to 10 kHz, average maximum gain before feedback of 40 dB, and functional gain through 10 kHz show extended-bandwidth broad-spectrum output and gain. RTS results showed significant aided improvements of up to 2.8 dB, and APHAB results showed clinically significant aided benefits in 92% of participants (11/12).

Conclusion The safety, stability, and performance demonstrated in this initial 4-month study suggest that the CHD may offer a feasible way of providing broad-spectrum amplification appropriate to treat listeners with mild-to-severe hearing impairment.

*EarLens Corporation, Redwood City; and †Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sunil Puria, Ph.D., EarLens Corporation, 200 Chesapeake Drive, Redwood City, CA 94063; E-mail:

This work was supported in part by R44 DC008499 SBIR and ARRA supplement funds granted to author S. P. from the NIDCD of the NIH. EarLens Corporation provided funding for the trial.

The authors declare that they have a financial interest in EarLens Corporation.

Copyright © 2013 by Otology & Neurotology, Inc. Image copyright © 2010 Wolters Kluwer Health/Anatomical Chart Company