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Colorado State student designs hearing aid cover with 3D printing

When Megan Aanstoos was confronted with a challenge, she took it upon herself to find a solution.

Aanstoos, a graduate student and fifth year Ph.D candidate in the school of biomedical engineering, has experienced hearing loss for almost all of her life.

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Last year when she was looking into buying new hearing aids, she realized that many of them had a design flaw that would cause a loud squeaky noise to occur whenever something made contact with them.

“This was my money that I would be spending on something that didn’t work,” Aanstoos said. “As a biomedical engineer, that didn’t sit very well with me.”

Around this same time, Aanstoos attended a lecture given by David Prawel, the director of Idea-2-Product Lab 3D Printing Lab, and decided to find a solution herself.

Aanstoos had the idea to increase the depth of the microphone cover so that it would not make any bad noises. She brought this idea to the 3D Printing Lab.

Prawel explained that all projects in the 3D Printing Lab start with understanding the vision of the project and identifying if it is feasible for the lab.

“We’re a community lab,” Prawel said. “You never know what’s going to come in the door.”

When Aanstoos contacted him, he introduced her to Craig Egan, who worked in the lab at the time and ended up creating the design for the hearing aid covers. Egan is also hearing impaired.

“One of our staff also happened to be audio disabled and it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Prawel said.

Egan, who is currently a master’s student at the University of Colorado at Denver, had always been interested in projects that could help the deaf community.

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When he heard about Aanstoos’ design idea he was excited to help find a solution to the problem.

“I use a hearing aid, so I completely understand that need,” Egan said.

With the help of Egan and the Idea-2-Product Lab, the two were able to create and test prototypes.

“He was able to put his architectural skills together with my idea and biomedical knowledge so that we could design something that would be like a removable cover,” Aanstoos said.

Aanstoos said that the Idea-2-Product Lab was easy to use and allowed them to experiment with the design. She also said that the lab was low cost and the turn around time on printing the designs was only a week.

“We were able to try different ideas and actually see and touch and feel them to see how well they would work,” Aanstoos said.

She encourages other people to utilize the lab to help their ideas come to life.

According to Prawel, the Ideas to Products 3D Printing Lab is unique because it enables people to experiment with their projects and get advice about them.

Prawel explained that the lab is “here to educate people about what you can do to help your ideas become real products.”

While this product is still an ongoing process that will require more research, both Aanstoos and Egan are excited about its potential to help people.

“I really enjoy designing anything, especially if it can make a positive impact,” Egan said.

Collegian Reporter Maddie Buxton can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Madbuxx.

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