Dalhousie researchers team up with US-based company to bring innovative hearing devices to market
Dalhousie University researchers are teaming up with Houston-based Ototronix, LLC to develop and commercialize new technologies that will improve implantable devices for the hearing impaired.
Using piezoelectric devices that attach directly to the skull instead of to the middle ear or to a peg through the skull, this new technology will enable skin to grow over the implant making it virtually undetectable and resistant to infection. It will also provide an alternative solution for patients who cannot transmit sound from the ear canal to the cochlea.
More than 10 per cent of North Americans are hearing impaired (11.3%), representing a $6.3-million market.
Ototronix, LLC, will support the Dalhousie research team as it conducts additional R&D, system integration work, animal testing and patient trials and will contribute extensive regulatory experience.
Patient trials could begin as early as 18-24 months from now, making the devices available to patients as soon as 3.5 years pending US FDA approvals.
The next generation of implantable hearing aids will be invisible, innocuous, low maintenance and will promise increased loudness, comfort and clarity and decreased feedback compared to existing devices.
The Dalhousie research team is comprised of Dr. Manohar Bance, Professor of Otolaryngology, Dr. Jeremy Brown, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Rob Adamson, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering. The team received funding from the ACOA Atlantic Innovation Fund in 2005 to develop new technologies for bone conduction. In 2008 Dalhousie’s Industry Liaison and Innovation Office funded the team’s submission of patents and the publication of early results. By 2012, the researchers received funding from NSERC/CIHR Collaborative Health Research Projects.
"These devices are implanted under the skin, replacing technologies such as the bone-anchored hearing aid. They would really help patients who cannot wear conventional hearing aids because they have abnormal or missing external ear canals. The devices work by conducting vibrations through the skull to the inner ear directly, bypassing the middle ear. In the case of single-sided deafness, they can transmit sound from the deaf side to the hearing side through skull vibrations. -- Dr. Manohar Bance, Researcher and Professor of Otolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine
"The device we have been developing is a surgically implanted device that becomes invisible once it has been implanted. This is a great thing from a patient's point of view because it becomes a part of them, they don't have to think about it anymore."-- Dr. Rob Adamson, Department of Surgery and School of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Medicine
"This is different. We knew when we first heard about this that these guys were onto something, and have a unique technology. To us, if you're going to bring the next generation of technology to market, it has to be different, it can't be the same old stuff." -- Michael Spearman, CEO of Ototronix, LLC
"We see significant benefits arising at Dalhousie from increased interactions with industry and we are beginning to see an emerging cluster in medical technologies in Halifax, with Dalhousie's School of Biomedical Engineering and Capital Health at the epicentre." Stephen Hartlen, AVP Industry Relations, Executive Director of the Industry Liaison and Innovation, Dalhousie University
Dr. Rob Adamson holding a model of the hearing device.
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