Article

3D Printed bionic ears for children with microtia

  • Nimish Sany
  • 21 September , 2016

FutureHear is the brainchild of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Hear and Say, a non-profit organization based in Australia and New Zealand, providing free services to children with hearing loss and enable them to listen and speak. In an aim to provide children prosthetic ears, FutureHear has resorted to 3D printing and is currently planning crowd-funding. The organization expects to kick-off a program, which, in future, will be able provide children with hearing loss, real tissue and bionic ears.

Mia Woodruff and Dimity Dornan

Mia Woodruff (left) with Dr. Dimity Dornan Image: FutureHearProject/Facebook

Microtia, a congenital condition where the baby has an underdeveloped ear occur about 1 in every 8000-10000 births. FutureHear hopes to give children born with microtia, a chance to afford advanced medical research according to Mia Woodruff, Associate Professor at QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. “No one in the world is researching 3D printing of life-like materials to create external ears,” Woodruff notes. “Crowdfunding is common nowadays for start-ups and arts projects but it is not the usual route to gaining financial support for biomedical research,” she added.

FutureHear hopes to raise over $200,000 in 48 days inorder to provide real tissue bionic ears to children with microtia. Hear and Say estimates it needs to raise “more than $10,000 each year, for up to five years, to teach one child with hearing loss to listen and speak.” 3D printed bionic ears provide a non-invasive and child-friendly alternative to other treatment methods such as surgery or cochlear implants. Also, the option of customization of ears to suit each child’s facial features offers greater flexibility in treatment. Prosthetic ears, currently in use by children with hearing loss come at a price, which sometimes cannot be met by the child’s parents. QUT means to find a solution to this by employing 3D printing for creating the prosthetics which could make them cheaper and easily available.

 Hear and Say’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr Dimity Dornan AO explains future plans of her organization, “The next step for Professor Woodruff and her team is to produce a surgically implanted 3D printed ear scaffold containing the child’s own cells that will gradually dissolve and leave only new tissue,” Dr Dornan says. “The real winners in this project are the children affected by microtia and their families who are seeking a cost effective and more accessible solution.”

Author

Nimish Sany: I bleed my thoughts on paper. And if I cant find a paper, blogs serve the purpose just fine.

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