A new type of hearing aid that uses a tiny precision-engineered tube to amplify sound without blocking the user’s ear passage is to make its debut in the UK.
The device, called Retrox, integrates a digital hearing aid with a surgically implanted titanium component that can be tuned to enhance audibility in high frequency ranges – particularly useful for understanding other people’s speech.
Unlike other hearing aids it does not need to block the user’s ear canal, which is uncomfortable and can muffle sounds that would otherwise be audible. Blockage can also change wearers’ perception of their own voice, making speech more difficult.
Retrox is set to be marketed around the world following a deal between its German developers and UK medical technology group Gyrus, which will add it to its portfolio of healthcare devices.
The key to the Retrox system is the tiny, precision-engineered medical-grade titanium tube. The three-part component is connected via an inner screw thread from the back of the ear to the auditory canal. It floats freely in the soft tissue, serving as a conduit for amplified sound from the digital processor. The use of medical-grade titanium means the system is bio-compatible, thermally and acoustically stable and safe for any future CT and MRI scans the patient undergoes. It is also less obtrusive than conventional aids.
The underlying technology for Retrox was developed in Germany by Auric Horsysteme, a consortium of ENT doctors and specialist engineers. At around £3,000 each the devices are likely to be sold to private buyers rather than prescribed by the NHS.