3D Printing Makes a Bionic Ear
More and more, scientists are learning how innovative 3D printers can help the human body. One of the latest feats? Researchers at Princeton University printed a bionic ear, complete with a functioning electronic system and replacement ear tissue.
The technology was simple for the first run, but if perfected, it could help deaf people hear. Not a small accomplishment for the medical community.
Here’s how the bionic ear project worked:
Based on plans led by Michael McAlpine, a Princeton assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, a commercial 3D printer layered “inks” of special gels, calf cells and silver nanoparticles. As the inks were being layered, hearing-assistance electronics were embedded along the way.
The inner electronics use a simple antenna. However, if the system could connect to a receiver that reaches the auditory nerve with electrodes, then that would offer bigger potential. It could deliver huge benefits to deaf people. And also, since an electronic ear wouldn’t have the limitations of standard hearing, it could let humans hear at new volumes and frequencies usually outside the human range.
This isn’t the first 3D printing experiment for the human body. Previously, researchers have created a working bladder, skin cells for burn victims, a jawbone and a model kidney. All in all, the research is teaching scientists how to create organs that work like real ones.
While this technology develops, there are a number of practical solutions for helping hearing loss right now. For a consultation to check out your options, you can call our doctors anytime.