Custom fitting hearing aids to individual ears is subject to imperfection. In the process, it is possible to cause damage to the ear canal because of the silicon mold making process that is currently used. Now research out of MIT has led to a new digitizing tool that can scan and create excellent 3D reconstructions of the insides of a person’s ear.
MIT Technology Review reports:
Hart developed the new scanning technique “completely by accident” while experimenting with emission reabsorption laser induced fluorescence (ERLIF) as a way to measure the film thickness of engine oils, in order to understand oil consumption and engine wear. In the process, he figured out that he was getting very accurate 3-D measurements of the films. “It’s so accurate,” he says, “you can measure anything in 3-D.”
ERLIF works on the principle that light is scattered differently depending on the depth of a liquid. Hart uses a fiber-optic camera inserted into the ear and wrapped by a liquid-filled balloon that expands to conform to the ear’s shape. Measuring the light absorption of dyes in both the liquid and the balloon yields an exact 3-D picture of the ear’s shape and dimensions.
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