Chip champ Intel sets up Jordan pilot to streamline and democratise hearing aid access through 3D printing
- Published on 14 June 2023
Tech giant and chip champion, Intel, is busy with several projects aimed at increasing access to assistive devices and improving their integration with other technologies.
For many people around the world, access to the benefits of hearing technology proves too expensive and takes a long time. To tackle these problems, Intel has teamed up with US-based nonprofit tech startup and Intel RISE Technology Initiative partner, 3DP4ME, as well as the Dublin-based global professional services outfit, Accenture.
These groups have set up a pilot project in Jordan, taking scans of children's ears and printing custom-fitted hearing aids for them. Using 3D printing is faster and less expensive than traditional manufacturing methods.
“Previous work to provide hearing aids to children included hand-making the custom ear molds. It was a craft that was labour-intensive, and you could only make four or five hearing aids a day,” says Jason Szolomayer, founder of 3DP4ME. “There were long wait times, even after the kids were tested. Using 3D printing allows us to scale up the service we provide to families and kids who need hearing aids.”
With the goal of scaling this capability to reach thousands of people in need, Intel maintains it can help democratise hearing solutions around the globe. Improving hearing aid connectivity to computers is one of the specific areas Intel is focusing, led by CEO Pat Gelsinger, who uses a hearing aid himself.
PC-hearing aid wireless connection
Another of Intel's aims is to enable a wireless connection between hearing aids and PCs, thus helping hearing aid users to join meetings on multiple devices, run up captions on a different screen, and even wear a headset in addition to their aids. With the help of employees who are hard of hearing, a team in Intel's Client Computing Group (CCG) is working to use Bluetooth LE Audio to enable a direct connection between “Engineered for Intel Evo” verified hearing aids and Intel Evo PCs, and to close the compatibility gap that currently limits people’s ability to use their hearing aids on their computers.
Working in shared or noisy environments can be particularly challenging for people with hearing disabilities, so Intel has developed All Ears, an ambient-aware artificial intelligence platform that acts as a Bluetooth LE hearing aid assistant, recognising critical sounds the user cares about and offering a visual notification on their screen for noises that are happening in their environment, such as a knock on the door or a specific person calling their name.