The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS and OtoNexus Medical Technologies have partnered on the development of a new type of ultrasound transducer, integrated in an otoscope, that uses air-coupled ultrasound to enable a precise diagnosis of middle-ear infections. The new otoscope is at the prototype stage, and undergoing clinical studies. Once approved and on the market, medical staff will be able to use the device to examine the external auditory canal and the area behind the ear drum, and assess in just seconds whether there is air or fluid in the middle ear, to characterize the latter, and determine appropriate treatment more accurately.
“Fraunhofer collaborates with OtoNexus Medical Technologies on ultrasound transducer for ear infection diagnosis“
Dr. Sandro Koch, a physicist at Fraunhofer IPMS in Dresden, said: “The classic otoscope is an optical system and hasn’t changed in decades, but when fitted with our ultrasound transducer, which is both a transmitter and receiver, it develops new functions. One of these electrodes is flexible. We use the vibrations of this electrode to transmit ultrasonic pulses. When the echo from this signal strikes a flexible membrane, the resultant vibration is converted into a detectable electrical signal. And, unlike traditional ceramic piezoelectric ultrasound transducers, our MEMS transducer can be miniaturized. That’s a major advantage here, because it means the CMUT can be incorporated much more easily in an otoscope.”