Binghamton researcher invents tiny directional microphone suitable for hearing aids

Published on November 6, 2012 at 1:54 AM · No Comments

Binghamton University researcher Ron Miles invented a tiny directional microphone - suitable for use in hearing aids - that filters out unwanted sounds. Now, with help from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund, he hopes to bring the idea to the marketplace.

Technology for the hearing-impaired is hardly perfect. The small microphones contained within hearing aids do a good job of boosting volume, but that can be a problem in a noisy restaurant as background sounds get boosted as much as your dinner date's conversation. Miles used a tiny structure found in the ear of a fly, Ormia ochracea, as a model to develop the world's smallest directional microphones.

His research received several million dollars in funding from the National Institutes of Health nearly a decade ago, but that money was focused on scientific discovery and not on the development of a commercial product. Last year, the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF) supported development of the technology with $50,000 from the SUNY Technology Accelerator Fund (TAF). Now, Miles has earned an additional $100,000 from the fund to develop his microphone in a market-strategic way. Binghamton University will match that $100,000, providing additional resources to advance this research.

"As part of the review process, the RF team did a marketing study to determine potential markets for licensing and commercialization," Miles says. "We ended up modifying our design to improve the marketability of our technology. By using a more conventional sensing scheme, it should be easier to commercialize."

"Dr. Miles' work is a perfect example of the real-world impact of SUNY research," says Timothy Killeen, president of the RF and SUNY vice chancellor for research. "Ground-breaking research is being conducted by SUNY faculty and students across New York State. Our job is to provide the support that facilitates the advancement of invention to produce commercially viable technologies that serve the public good and trigger entrepreneurial and economic opportunity. Congratulations to Dr. Miles and his Binghamton University team."

The Research Foundation launched the TAF in April 2011 to support innovation across the SUNY research community and to provide proof-of-concept funding for SUNY's most promising technologies. In its first year, the fund produced two licensing agreements and three startup companies.

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