It’s been three years since I predicted that the Lantos Technologies digital ear canal scanner would be a game-changer for the hearing aid and high-end audio industries.
Now, at last, it appears the game may actually be ready to change. AudiologyOnline has published an independent testimonial from a Vermont-based audiologist who gives two thumbs up to the pioneering digital ear canal scanner from Lantos, which received FDA 510(K) clearance to market the system in March 2013.
“Lantos Technologies’ AURA System is faster, easier, and more accurate than the traditional process,” writes Robert Hartenstein, AuD, an Audiologist at Audiology Associates, Inc., Rutland, Vermont. “We can get a scan that is very deep in the ear canal.”
It’s worth reading the entire post at AudiologyOnline, but here are the highlights of Dr. Hartenstein’s conclusions:
- Research has shown that approximately 50 percent of all hearing aid remakes are due to poor impressions, which are inconvenient for patients, inefficient and time-consuming for audiologists and dispensers, and costly for manufacturers.
- Digital ear canal scans can reduce remakes by improving impressions with a faster, easier, and more accurate process than the traditional manual method of taking ear mold impressions.
- Digital ear canal scans are less invasive than the traditional method, which requires injection of silicone putty into the ear and leaving it there until it has hardened.
- With the growing market for invisible-in-canal (IIC) hearing aids, manufacturers need ear mold impressions that extend nearly all the way to the ear drum (tympanic membrane); with the traditional manual process, the deeper the impression, the less accurate the ear mold, but the digital scanner provides accurate data as deep in the canal as necessary.
- Even if a remake is not required, a poor ear impression deep in the canal makes it difficult to build a comfortable product that fits well and provides the best acoustic performance.
- Many audiologists and certified hearing aid dispensers are uncomfortable taking deep impressions for fear of damaging the ear canal when the hardened silicone is removed. “Even if TM (tympanic membrane) ruptures and other serious injuries are rare, I do not think anyone wants to see an impression coming out of their ear with blood on it,” writes Dr. Hartenstein. The digital scan promises to eliminate the problem.
- Traditional ear impressions fail to capture the changes in the ear canal that take place with jaw movement such as chewing, yawning, or smiling, making it difficult to manufacture the ideal-fitting ear mold. The Lantos AURA System can record as many positions as you want, enabling a far more accurate fit with the final mold.
- With the traditional approach, it’s impossible to see how far you’ve injected the silicone, but the Lantos AURA System has a camera and a light on the tip much like a video otoscope, making it possible to view exactly how deeply you’ve gone before you take the scan.
With the FDA approval for sale of the system, Lantos is actively marketing not only the product but also the concept of digital ear canal scanning as a technology that enables a range of new applications, not just for hearing aids, but for consumer audio earphones, noise protection headsets, military uses, athletics, and virtually any other application requiring ear buds.
The challenge for Lantos Technologies moving forward will be opening up distribution and product delivery channels, many of which don’t exist yet. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a perfect digital ear canal scan in seconds at your local athletics store for a set of custom-tailored earplugs to prevent swimmer’s ear?
But in the meantime, simply taking the first step — getting the product into the hands of audiologists and other hearing professionals who already take ear mold impressions — is a big one.