Invention

Vibrosonic – A revolutionary invention that takes hearing aids to the next level of sophistication

According to the World Health Organization, more than 5% of the world’s population – or 430 million people – need rehabilitation to remedy their “crippling” hearing loss. It is estimated that by 2050, 2500 million people will have disabling hearing loss. The good news is that by applying state-of-the-art technology, Vibrosonic, a Germany-based company, has developed an all-new product that takes hearing aids to the next level of sophistication.

Untreated people with hearing loss are more likely to experience irritation, depression and anger because the impairment interrupts the natural flow of speech and severely affects their long-term mental health. Hearing aids are the best course of action that offers relief. However, when we talk about hearing aids, we immediately think of a visible device in the ears that can cause inconvenience and discomfort.

Current receiver technology is far from perfect as it requires blocking the ear canal in order to achieve higher amplification and audio bandwidths. As a result, annoying ringing or whistling often occurs when sound from the hearing aid receiver returns to the microphone. The negative stigma associated with hearing loss has also contributed to the low rate of adoption of hearing aids not only among young people, but also among older people.

“With conventional hearing aids, people always have to make a trade-off: either they go for an invisible system with limited sound quality, or they can go ahead with better sound quality that is obviously visible,” says Dr. Dominik Kaltenbacher, founder. and CEO of Vibrosonic. “At the end of the day, people want something that’s both invisible and has good sound quality.”

Subversion of the traditional

For more than a decade, Dr. Kaltenbacher, along with Dr. Dalhoff and Dr. Schächtele, have been dedicated to transforming the hearing contact lens from a scientific project to a real product for the benefit of people with hearing loss. Vibrosonic was founded in 2016 with a mission to reconnect people with hearing loss to the sound of life.

“As a team, we knew from our research that if we wanted to combine invisibility with high sound quality, we had to create sound directly on the eardrums and in direct mechanical contact with the eardrum,” says Dr. Kaltenbacher . “That’s the key to the best sound quality.”

In its research and development work, Vibrosonic has received strong support from its basic science institutions, Fraunhofer and Tubingen University Hospital. The former and current directors of the Clinic for Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Professor Zenner and Professor Löwenheim, resolutely contributed their medical expertise and advice to the success of the invention of the lenses. vibrosonic auditory contact.

“This is a completely new approach to treating hearing loss, characterized by the invisibility of the medical hearing solution and providing a superior hearing experience at the same time,” remarks Dr. Kaltenbacher. “It has the potential to revolutionize the premium segment of the hearing aid market.”

He points out that there are other research approaches, such as putting magnets on the eardrum, but they are too heavy and could easily fall off, with the possibility of tearing the eardrum. “Instead, our approach is to create a micro speaker that is light, thin and flexible enough to be placed directly in the ear with dramatic mechanical contact with the drum,” he explains.

A unique hearing solution

“What Vibrosonic offers is a new generation of receiver technology for unprecedented sound quality. It’s not just another conventional device, it’s really different,” says Dr. Werner Zöllner, co-founder of Vibrosonic. “We take the little speaker mic and place it in a custom-designed silicone mold for each patient. And then an otolaryngologist inserts the hearing contact lens – without surgery and without anesthesia – through the ear canal. on the eardrum.

The hearing contact lens massively reduces distortion and enables wide audio bandwidth with a perfectly flat frequency response. Minor rear emission reduces the need for noise isolation and energy-consuming feedback cancellation technology. The open ear canal module connected to the auditory contact lens allows both ventilation and high wearing comfort.

“It makes a big difference in two ways: first, we can boost your musical experience by providing rich foundations and great sound. Second, we can provide more information in high-frequency regions, especially in noisy environments with many people,” adds Dr. Zöllner.

In addition to the technological advance, Vibrosonic will contribute to a higher penetration rate by facilitating the customer journey. “Today, in many markets, the journey to obtain hearing aids is very fragmented,” observes Dr. Kaltenbacher. “Throughout this complicated journey, more than 30 to 40% of people get lost; they don’t end up with a hearing aid they urgently need.

“On the other hand, we really want to facilitate this journey; we only have two touchpoints that can be done through a website or app. Appointments can be made with your nearby otolaryngologist or ENT specialists. It is followed by two sessions: the measurements will be made during the first session, with the fitting of the auditory contact lens and the adjustments during the second session”, he specifies.

Strong market potential

Dr. Kaltenbacher foresees strong market potential for their invention. “Our first generation product, Vibrosonic alpha, will be released in Germany in the second half of this year, followed by Hong Kong as it accepts European medical device certifications,” he reveals. “We see Hong Kong as an important entry into the Asian market where the current penetration rate is very low.”

Hong Kong, he notes, could be Vibrosonic’s entry point into the Greater Bay Area and China, which is one of the biggest medical device markets in the world. The UK also has a strong private medical market, in terms of hearing aids in particular. They will both be the main market entry points for Vibrosonic.

With the completion of the first generation device, Vibrosonic will complete the development of the invisible product, the second generation, and apply for Chinese certification and NMPA certification. By 2024, they plan to launch it in three main markets – Germany, UK, Hong Kong, and then a year later, China.