Megan Aanstoos has been purchasing hearing aids for nearly all her life. When the CSU Biomedical Engineering doctoral student was searching for a new hearing aid, a device that cost upward of $5,000, she became frustrated by a consistent design flaw. “While trying out new aids, I found that the microphone covers were not recessed enough to prevent feedback from hair rubbing on them,” Aanstoos said. Microphone feedback creates the loud screeches and pops that we hear at speeches and concerts. Without a barrier to prevent this feedback, Aanstoos and other hearing aid users endure this screech every time their hair, clothes, or hands brush the microphone of the hearing aid. “This was my money that I would be spending on something that didn’t work. As a biomedical engineer, that didn’t sit very well with me.”
In an attempt to fix the defect herself, Aanstoos came to Idea-2-Product 3D Printing Lab. She wanted to develop specialized hearing aid covers that that would increase the depth of the microphone, placing it farther away from anything that could cause feedback.
While designing the project, Dr. David Prawel, head of the Idea-2-Product lab, introduced Aanstoos to Craig Egan, a student who worked at the lab. Egan, who was receiving his master’s degree in architecture, helped Aanstoos design and test prototypes. The students had a shared desire to see the project’s success. “I use a hearing aid,” Egan said, “so I completely understand that need.”
While Egan created and tested the covers, trying to make each new design more practical than the last, Aanstoos gathered advice and input from both her audiologist and her own patients. “We were able to try different ideas, and actually see and touch and feel them to see how well they would work,” Aanstoos said of the project.
Even though the project is still ongoing, Aanstoos and Egan created prototypes for a variety of hearing aids that are still being tested . Aanstoos hopes to gather enough feedback to keep the project going, and make the product marketable. “I wanted to keep the project active so others would be able to buy whatever aids they wanted without worrying about feedback from the microphones,” Aanstoos expressed. While Egan is currently in Denver completing his masters, he said, “I really enjoy designing anything, especially if it can make a positive impact.”
As Aanstoos continues research on the project, she intends to return to Idea-2-Product. The lab enables the community to experiment with projects and get advice about them. “The technology of the Idea-2-Product lab made it possible to take this idea from my brain, and turn it into an actual product quickly,” Aanstoos said. The lab allowed her to create and test her product without the need for a large grant or industry investment.