3D-Printed Prosthetics: Could They Help People with Hearing Loss?

3D-Printed Prosthetics

3D printing is rapidly revolutionizing the health care industry. Now it may also be able to help deaf people hear again, and that without any hearing aids.

At the University of Maryland researchers used patients’ CT scans to create 3D-printed prosthetics.

3D-Printed Prosthetics Are The Solution

The team at the University of Maryland took detailed measurements of ears and then used a regular 3D printer to print out custom synthetic bones. Because of the high level of customizability the rate of success of creating prosthetics can increase immensely.

The parts of the ear that are most often replaced are the ossicles, the three small bones responsible for transmitting the vibrations that your cochlea, the auditory portion all the way in the back of the ear, then translates to the sounds we hear. Usually the ossicles become damaged due to infections or traumas and as a result the sounds from the ear drum can’t reach the cochlea properly.

The Study

The researchers took three dead human bodies and after removing the ossicles, created a CT scan in order to get accurate measurements. Then they used a 3D printer in an attempt to make replicas of the ossicles. The 3D-printed prosthetics  were then given to four surgeons whom were tasked to match the prosthetics to the bodies, without knowing which prosthetics belonged to which body.

All four of them were able to match the 3D-printed prosthetics with the correct bodies. Where in ORs across the world doctors are struggling to create prosthetics that fit on the fly, it now seems that we can move towards getting the size and shape right with a much higher success rate.

Not There Just Yet

In order to guarantee a higher success rate another step has to be taken. The 3D-printed prosthetics should be able to be combined with stem cells so they can become a permanent fix for those with hearing loss.

It can safely be said that it shouldn’t take much longer before we find a way to use 3D printing to help enable people to hear better again.