For many people in the hearing world, there is some confusion about what it means to be deaf. This is true not only in terms of the range of hearing abilities associated with deafness but also the way in which people who are deaf choose to live and enact their Deaf identities. For hearing parents with a deaf newborn, the question on their minds might be: how do we fix this? However, the very first part of developing an understanding of deafness is to recognize that it is not a state of being broken. There are a range of responses to hearing differences and a lively discourse within the Deaf community regarding the ways in which hearing aids, cochlear implants, sign language, communication, and education can/should be part of any particular deaf individual’s life.

Hearing aids are the most common means for addressing hearing loss, whether present from birth or as a result of diminished hearing from age or condition. Unfortunately, access to such devices are limited in the developing world, with only an estimated 3% of people who could benefit from such aids actually being able to obtain them. It was with this need in mind that 3DP4ME was formed in order to harness the power of 3D printing to help provide people in developing areas access to hearing aids. The California-based not-for-profit has set out as its objectives to provide 12,000 hearing aids, 4,000 for people who need a fitting for just one ear, and a further 8,000 for people who will need a bi-lateral fitting.

3DP4ME provides the ear mold component of the hearing aid; this is the part of the device made of a soft material that allows the aid to precisely fit in the ear and delivers the sound generated by the microphone, amplifier, and speaker in the aid itself. This mold is created by performing a 3D scan of the recipient’s ear in order to ensure an adequate fit, mapping the topography of the ear all the way down to the eardrum. A digital model of the scan is then created and prepared for 3D printing, which can be carried out wherever the file is sent.

Maher is one of five children, the only one deaf. He received a hearing aid from Holy Land Institute for the Deaf (HLID) in Jordan. [Image courtesy of 3dp4me.org]

Currently, the organization is partnering with Jordan’s Holy Land Institute for the Deaf’s (HLID) Hearing aids, Ear molds, Audiology Resources (H.E.A.R.) department. They are getting some much needed volunteer help from Irvine businessman Bill Allen who has spearheaded a $100,000 fundraising campaign for 3DP4ME. Allen spends 15 hours a week working with the organization to help manage the organizational aspects of the fundraising campaign and its planned results. His interest in the cause came about as a result of his dedication to music–he holds a music degree in jazz and classical guitar performance–and the consideration of how music enriches his life, as he explained:

“If music was not available, I’m not sure what path I would have taken. For me, music was one of the keys that drove me to seek a post-high school education coming from a very small town. That type of training has allowed me to work with groups and be creative with them in a way where I can positively interact with others…The best part of this has been expanding my world view and realizing that poverty and being able to hear are some common human problems, and I hope to provide some amount of support.”

His hope is that providing access to hearing aids for those who could otherwise not obtain them will not only provide a pathway for them to enjoy music, but also to have more opportunities in all aspects of life. Allen’s dedication has been very valuable to the team at 3DP4ME, as expressed by its founder and president Jason Szolomayer:

“Along with bringing a wealth of practical knowledge to our strategic planning team, Bill has brought a passion and commitment to the 3DP4ME culture, allowing us to build a strong foundation for future growth. I am deeply grateful for the time, energy, and expertise Bill has invested in our organization and I am proud he is part of our team.”

The fundraising effort has netted almost $10,000 to date, and if the goal of $100,000 is reached, the HLID hopes to be able to build a center in Jordan that would provide support for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind children and their families in order to advance their “inclusion and participation in their families and communities in a meaningful way, and to [help them] make their valuable contribution to civic society in Jordan.”

What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Source: Lake Forest Patch]

 

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