A New Technology from Boğaziçi University for Diagnosing Hearing Loss
Researchers at Boğaziçi University have developed a tablet-based, wireless audiometer. The device is compatible with new generation technology, and will play a significant role in the diagnosis of hearing loss.
The audiometer developed by Boğaziçi ARGE, part of the university’s Technopark, is a wireless, tablet-based application equipped with a practical user interface. The device was developed with the contributions of a group of Boğaziçi University students led by Prof. Mehmet Özkan from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. The new audiometer, called BOARGE, will facilitate the diagnosis and measurement of hearing loss in hospitals and clinics, and will also offer an opportunity to conduct hearing impairment tests for screening purposes in the work place.
Özkan, one of the founders of Boğaziçi ARGE, said, “The appropriate programming of the audiometric device is very important in programming the hearing aid that a patient will use. In fact, hearing aids that are poorly programmed may cause hearing loss to increase. Thus, accurate measurement is critical.”
“Audiometric devices are produced by a few manufacturers around the world,” explained Özkan. “The patient enters a sound booth for audiometric assessment. The audiologist outside the booth determines the patient’s hearing threshold by transmitting a range of sounds of various tones and frequencies. The audiometer inside the sound booth is connected to the device outside by cables transmitting analogue signals. Even if these two devices are very carefully calibrated, when taken back to the clinic, the worn, oxidized cables and connections may cause signal losses above tolerable levels.
“BOARGE has eliminated the need for cable connections between units inside and outside the booths,” he continued, “preventing signal losses caused by cords and cable connections as well as any changes in the calibration. The structure of BOARGE allows the audiologist to move around freely, and the user-friendly interactive interface allows for faster measurement. The embedded system and advanced microcontroller technology has made it possible to receive sound signals at a level of sensitivity and accuracy much above the standards. And this obviously increases the quality and reliability of measurement as compared to other devices. Measurements that could only be made by different audiometers placed one on top of the other can now be made by one single device with a modular structure. In this way, we are offering a solution to the current practice of using more than one device in industry or at hospitals, at a lower cost.”
New Technology Provides More Effective Measurements
Özkan gave the following information with regard to the new technology: “New technologies assure us that we can make more sensitive, more accurate measurements. In addition, although it is a known fact that the patient’s hearing threshold may show variations depending on the procedure used in placing the hearing aid in the outer ear, we have found out that the measurement of this deviation is not yet very common, and that it may lead to inaccurate applications. At BOARGE, we decided to combine verification tests on hearing aid functions and tests of hearing threshold with hearing aid, and manufactured wireless, tablet based, audiometric devices that are custom-made for the patient, a process which will soon be standardized in Turkey. For that purpose, we established a business incubator within the framework of KOSGEB (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development Organization), and then moved to the Boğaziçi University Technopark. Once we have added the new functions to the device as planned, we will carry out clinical function tests and complete the certification process. Our product will be on the market within a year. All stages in the manufacturing of our device were completed at BOARGE, with the collaboration of the Boğaziçi University Institute of Biomedical Engineering. Boğaziçi University students played an important role in all stages of the process, as employees of the company.