This episode of our Tech Briefs podcast series Here’s an Idea™ explores a variety of new-and-improved hearing aids, from $1 “do-it-yourself” devices to advanced systems that monitor brain waves.

Here’s an Idea brings you the inspiration behind invention, through interviews with the makers of today’s most exciting technologies.

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The Technologies

  • (01:13):  Innovation at the VA: A 3D-Printed Stent for Collapsed Cartilage
  • (08:02): A $1 Hearing Aid That You Can Build in an Hour
  • (15:28): A Mind-Reading Hearing Aid for the 'Cocktail Party Problem'
  • (22:19): A Brain Monitor for Cochlear-Implant Calibration


A 3D-Printed Stent

To help a veteran with collapsed ear cartilage, Nikki Beitenman, a supervisory biomedical engineer at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, helped a team at the hospital to design and build a 3D-printed stent. The FDA-approved device is leaps and bounds ahead of its first prototype: two straws!

A Low-Cost Hearing Aid

Saad Bhamla, a Georgia Tech professor and bioengineer, knows that hearing aids are way too expensive. Bhamla is making a "LoChAid" hearing aid that costs just under a dollar — and, if you know how to use a soldering iron, you can build one too!

Georgia Tech Assistant Professor M. Saad Bhamla assembles a prototype LoCHAid, an ultra-low-cost hearing aid built with a 3D-printed case and components that cost less than $1. (Image Credit: Craig Bromley)

Learn how to construct the LoCHAid:

A Hearing Aid for 'Cocktail Parties'

Dr. Nima Mesgarani, a professor at Columbia University and a lead researcher in the University’s Neural Acoustic Processing Lab, wanted to make a hearing aid that could help with "the cocktail party problem," to make a device that zeros in on the person doing the speaking, and suppresses the other sound sources. How did he do it? His system monitors brain waves.

A Brain Monitor for Cochlear Implants

Ben Somers, a post-doc researcher at KU Leuven, wants to monitor the brain too. Learn how measuring brainwave activity can confirm not just that a listener hears you, but that they understand.

Learn more about Ben.