Can you imagine that future advancements in hearing devices may be dependent upon one of the most creepy and hated insects alive? While most people may simply laugh at the idea that a spider may hold the key to developing more effective hearing aids, a study conducted in October 2017 indicates this eight-legged creature may be good for more than just spinning in its web.
You’re probably wondering how spiders play a role in hearing healthcare. Research from the study featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States suggests that these insects can be significant in producing hearing aids with higher functioning directional microphones.
It is common for individuals who wear hearing aids to experience problems with understanding speech when background noise is present. The frequencies in speech can vary to such a great degree that most hearing devices are incapable of adequately detecting all the sounds. This causes difficulties with hearing in places where multiple people are talking, like restaurants or social gatherings.
Attempting to correct this problem, a hearing aid specialist may recommend a device that requires two directional microphones. They both must be spaced a certain distance apart to allow the device to effectively measure the frequencies and distinguish the sounds.
The end results are normally large or behind-the-ear hearing devices. Even with these custom hearing aids, many people still report trouble hearing low-frequency sounds.
This is where spiders make their grand entrance into hearing aid technology. The mystery behind how a simple spider can help advance the development of hearing aids lies within its webs.
The study suggests that if thin fibers similar to silk from spider webs are placed in a hearing aid, then the device will have the ability to detect directional-dependent signals alone. This will eliminate the need for microphones because the fibers will serve as a sensor that responds to air flow in a sound field.
The results would yield an individual having the capability of hearing clearly at all frequencies. However, producing a fiber that is both thin and strong enough to detect airflow has proven to be a great challenge.
Attempts were made to develop a man-made nanofiber that could be placed in the hearing aids. This resulted in failure because the fiber was not strong enough and very difficult to handle.
Shortly afterward, spider silk was discovered to be the perfect material to implant in hearing aid devices to detect all frequency levels. Not only was the silk thin enough to use, but it was also durable enough to blow around in the wind and never break.
Spider webs could be the breakthrough in hearing aid technology that professionals have been long awaiting, but more research and development will be needed before any new devices are created. Until then, you can be confident that you are receiving the most up-to-date treatment for your hearing loss by making an appointment with your local hearing healthcare professional for a hearing evaluation today.