Chubu Design Research Center will release a hearing aid that is made of urethane foam and attached to an ear in July 2015.

The ear cover-like hearing aid, “My Ears,” was developed by the company to enable elderly people whose hearing ability started to deteriorate to watch TV, etc.

Chubu Design Research Center plans to sell the hearing aid at the Tokyu Hands stores, etc at a price of ¥1,980 (approx US$16, excluding tax). It was exhibited at Welfare 2015, a trade show on the welfare/health industry, which took place from May 21 to 23, 2015, in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

The My Ears looks like an ear cover for cold weather or headphones. It is hung from ears and does not require a power source. It covers ears and accentuates sounds with a frequency of 1,800 to 2,000Hz, which even elderly people can hear, by using a resonance phenomenon produced by covering the ears.

In an acoustic analysis conducted at Nagoya Institute of Technology, the hearing aid strengthened sounds coming from the front by 14dB and sounds coming from all directions by 11dB on average (increase in sound pressure). Its weight is about 13g for one ear.

In general, the hearing ability of humans begins to significantly deteriorate for high frequency sounds (2,000Hz or higher) at an age of about 60 years.

“Hearing difficulty is believed to cause dementia,” said Toshio Watanabe, representative director of Chubu Design Research Center. “When hearing ability deteriorates, it makes us feel alienated and withdraw from society.”

Even elderly people have a hearing ability for the frequency range of 1,800 to 2,000Hz, which the My Ears accentuates. It is an approach that makes use of the remaining ability instead of making up for the lost one.

A family member of an elderly person who used the new hearing aid said, “It became possible to watch TV with the same sound volume with other family members,” Chubu Design Research Center said.

Chubu Design Research Center also tested the effects of the hearing aid by using it two hours a day for a month with

ten subjects. Though their pure tone hearing ability did not change, the “language understanding” of many of them improved not only when they are using the hearing aid but also when it is not being used.

Watanabe considers that, by correctly interpreting accentuated sounds as a language and getting used to the interpretation, attentiveness and concentration improves even without the aid.