• 3D laser scanner based on surface silicon micromachining techniques for shape and size reconstruction of the human ear canal

Prasciolu, Mauro


CIC hearing aids







As technology advances, hearing aids can be packaged into increasingly smaller housings. Devices that fit entirely within the deeper portion of the external auditory canal have been developed, called completely-in-the-canal (CIC). These aids are custom moulded and have high cosmetic appeal because they are virtually undetectable. They also have several acoustic advantages: reduced occlusion effect, reduced gain requirements, and preservation of the natural acoustic properties of the pinna and external ear. However, CIC hearing aids require proper fitting of the hearing aid shell to the subject ear canal to achieve satisfactory wearing comfort, reduction in acoustic feedback, and unwanted changes in the electro-acoustic characteristics of the aid. To date, the hearing aid shell manufacturing process is fully manual: the shell is fabricated as a replica of the impression of the subject ear canal. Conventional impression acquisition method is very invasive and imprecise, moreover the typical post-impression processes made on the ear impression leaves room for error and may not accurately represent the structural anatomy of patient’s ear canal. There are some laser approaches able to perform a 3D laser scanning of the original ear impression but, the entire shell-making process is completely dependent on the ear impression and often is the sole cause of poor fitting shell. Therefore, direct ear canal scanning is the only way to perform accurate and repeatable measurements without the use of physical ear impression. The conventional optical elements are not able to enter in the inner part of the ear and perform a scanning of the cavity. This work is devoted to the direct scanning of human external auditory canal by using electromagnetically actuated torsion micromirror fabricated by micromachining technique as scanner. This is the first ever demonstration of actual scanning of human external auditory canal by a single integral Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS). A novel prototype 3D scanning system is developed together with surface reconstruction algorithm to obtain an explicit 3D reconstruction of actual human auditory canal. The system is based on acquisition of optical range data by conoscopic holographic laser interferometer using electromagnetically actuated scanning MEMS micromirror. An innovative fabrication process based on poly(methylmethacrylate) (PMMA) sacrificial layer for fabrication of free standing micromirror is used. Micromirror actuation is achieved by using magnetic field generated with an electromagnetic coil stick. Micromirror and electromagnet coil assembly composes the opto-mechanical scanning probe used for entering in ear auditory canal. Based on actual scan map, a 3D reconstructed digital model of the ear canal was built using a surface point distribution approach. The proposed system allows noninvasive 3D imaging of ear canal with spatial resolution in the 10 μm range. Fabrication of actual shell from in-vivo ear canal scanning is also accomplished. The actual human ear canal measurement techniques presented provide a characterization of the ear canal shape, which help in the design and refining of hearing aids fabrication approaches to patient personalized based.

XIX Ciclo