Tiny Artificial Eardrum Could Make Your Headphones Safer And Better

One of the problems of in-ear headphones, though they often have excellent sound, is that they block all movement of air inside the ear canal, the better to control the sound environment — but potentially fatiguing or damaging to your eardrum. Audio researcher Stephen Ambrose has a solution that may improve the sound and protect your ears.

It’s essentially a second eardrum, made of an incredibly thin polymer and placed inside the headphones (not in your ear canal, don’t worry). What it does is reduce “static” pressure (a result of the ear being sealed off) while dutifully transmitting the sound pressure.

Popular Mechanics found it an improvement, though like any audio technology, it’s going to be a subjective experience. They would be purchasable separately from your headphones and installed at home, so you’re not getting roped into a whole new system here. Ambrose hopes to sell the “Diaphonic Ear Lens” in a few weeks, though if it works, we may see it licensed into new headphone designs after that.

Lots more information at this NSF page about the project. Sound and Vision Magazine has some hands-on pictures, as well.

[image: Dan Bracaglia/Sound and Vision]