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Miniature Balloon Ear Buds Take A Beating So Your Ear Drum Won't

By Veronique Greenwood
May 18, 2011 12:57 AMNov 20, 2019 4:50 AM


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What’s the News: A new type of ear bud hacks the ear’s reflexes, reducing its natural damping so you don’t have turn the volume up so high to get your jam on. It also cuts down on all that unsightly “leathering” on your eardrum... How the Heck:

  • Your ear doesn’t cope well with having an ear bud shoved into it. To defend itself against loud noises, it automatically tenses muscles around it to dampen sound.

  • But with Def Leppard pouring in and a little rubber stopper keeping it from pouring out, the ear clenches down even more. And as you crank up the volume to compensate, the sound ricochets through the ear canal and the membrane of the eardrum rattles like a dead leaf, eventually sustaining lasting damage in the form of leathery calluses.

  • New balloon-like ear buds, designed by Asius Technologies and presented at the Audio Engineering Society meeting on May 14^th, address this problem by sacrificing themselves instead of the eardrum, an Asius researcher told Sound and Vision. Rather than reflecting the sound around the canal, Asius says, the buds’ thin membranes absorb the rebound and deflect it into the canal’s walls, where it can travel to the cochlea through the bones of the ear (check out this video illustrating the process). And there’s a bonus: they also don’t fall out when you yawn.

The Future Holds: The ear buds, called ADELs

, aren’t on the market yet, and Asius is in negotiations for licensing the technology, so it will be a while yet before these little inflato-phones are available. In the meantime, check out the full review

of the tech at Sound and Vision. Image credit: Dan Bracaglia (via PopSci


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