A low-cost directional hearing aid

From niml.org

If you would like to help with this study as a master's or bachelor's thesis project, please send Bryn Martin an email with your resume and research interests.


The problem

According to World Health Organization reports , 278 million people suffer from moderate to profound hearing loss, worldwide. Of these 80% belong to the middle- and low-income countries where, less than 1 out of 40 people needing a hearing aid have one. Hearing aids are too expensive for people in the developing world to afford and maintain. The cost of entry level hearing aids is about $1500 in the United States of America and Europe and about $250 for those manufactured in India . In addition, the current hearing aid designs suffer from amplifying background noise along with the wanted signal (typically human voice). While many companies have sought to eliminate background noise, the present solutions required sophisticated algorithms and technolgy and have limited effectiveness. Thus, a low-cost directional hearing aid is needed.


Develop a low-cost directionally sensitive hearing aid with 4th year bachelor students in India.

The proposed project has a number of benefits including:

  1. A more realistic assessment of market opportunity for the product can be performed.
  2. Engineering students in India will have the opportunity to learn from the project management, design, and development methods followed in Europe and real world applications.
  3. Lower cost for components to construct first prototypes
  4. Increased scientific collaboration between researchers in Europe and Indian universities

Methods and study outline

The work plan will comprise the following phases:

A. Prototype design.

A team of students will work under the supervision of Dr. Anuradha Basu, A. Mangla, and Dr. Bryn Martin to design a prototype using free open-source software. Dr. Martin will provide the initial invention and designs for the hearing aid (shown below). A. Mangla and Dr. Martin will conduct a bi-weekly review via Skype to assess progress and provide suggestions and guidance.

B. Prototype construction and testing.

The prototype will be tested by subjects with hearing loss in India and Switzerland and improved. A report will be made at the end of Q2 and Q4 (see table). A prototype will be delivered to Dr. Martin and A. Mangla at the end of Q2 and Q4 for testing and review. The cost for materials to build the prototype will be shared evenly between the Indian engineering team and Dr. Martin up to a total cost of $200 ($100 each).

Expected results and potential impact

It is expected to have a fully working prototype at the end of the project. If the prototype proves its worth in field tests and the cost of the mass produced prototypes is low, it is envisioned that these hearing aids could be produced and sold at a low cost or distributed free through public health programs.

Preliminary results

To be posted