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Crickets And Locusts May Be The Cure For Hearing Impairment

First Posted: Sep 05, 2016 06:35 AM EDT
A Swarm Of Locusts Arrives In Israel
Locusts are among the insects that are said to be of great help in developing future hearing aids. Their “tympanal membranes” are linked to filtering out unwanted sounds.



(Photo : Ilia Yefimovich / Stringer via Getty Images)

Generally speaking, insects may play a great role in the development of future hearing aids. And currently, they are making a great contribution in contemporary research on hearing and sounds. Given their small sizes, how can insects produce high-level sounds? Can they help improve the next generation of hearing aids? At present, Rob Malkin and his colleagues are trying to find accurate answers. Today's hearing aids are still large and uncomfortable and insects might be the key to having smaller and more convenient devices.

Malkin is a senior research associate at the University of Bristol. In his article published in IFL Science, he shared the thought of designing a small speaker that is really loud and can be placed in hearing aids. During their research, they paid attention to the fact that crickets produce sound when their wings are rubbed together. According to Malkin, the loud calls are due to their wings being folded in patterns that make them stiff.

Meanwhile, Malkin suggested that locusts can also help in the development of hearing aids. These insects use "tympanal" membranes for hearing; and upon observation, Malkin and his colleagues found that they have a regular thickness variation and can also filter out frequencies. Malkin said this idea can possibly lead to designing microphones with inbuilt passive amplification.

With the aforementioned facts about crickets and locusts, experts suggest that insects can indeed help in hearing aid development. These insects' traits can cover various aspects of a hearing aid's job, which are amplifying sounds and filtering unwanted ones. Producing insect-inspired hearing aids can lead to having smaller and more comfortable devices that are actually more effective. Other insects mentioned by Malin are mosquitoes and fruit flies.

In April, The Hearing Review published the announcement of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, regarding the use of insect-inspired microphone in testing a new hearing aid design. Experts suggest that this might be the essential change needed for hearing aid microphones that were not done for decades.

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