With crowdfunding projects popping up by the hour across sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, funding everything from personalised merchandise to events, it’s actually refreshing to see a project that could truly change people’s lives. The FutureHear fund on Pozible is looking to enhance the development of prosthetic (and eventually bionic) ears to help children who are born with microtia – a deformity that causes underdeveloped or absence of functional ears.

The FutureHear team and one of the little girls they are helping with their research. Photo via: FutureHear on Facebook

The FutureHear team and one of the little girls they are helping with their research. Photo via: FutureHear on Facebook

On average microtia affects around 1 in 6,000 births worldwide. The consequences of a birth defect such as this can have a debilitating result on the lives of the children involved, as they may grow up feeling unequal, or incapable of doing the same things as their peers. It’s an unnecessary obstacle in life that they certainly shouldn’t have to face at such an early and formative stage.

FutureHear is a progressive project created via collaboration between Brisbane, Australia based charity Hear and Say, and the Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology Group at Queensland University of Technology. FutureHear was launched this year in February 2016, and has since then made outstanding progress with 3D printing partners at U.S. based Lulzbot. They have so far managed to fabricate customized ear molds using simple photogrammetry of a child’s ears and open source Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printers. They are also now looking to use Lulzbot’s NinjaFlex PLA filament to recreate the cartilage of an ear, therefore making it feel even more lifelike.

Prosthetic ears made by the FutureHear team using 3D printed models and silicone. Image via: FutureHear on Youtube

Prosthetic ears made by the FutureHear team using 3D printed models and silicone. Image via: FutureHear on Youtube

Since it was established in 1992, the Hear and Say charity have opened 6 centers across Australia that provide support and education to children, teenagers and adults with hearing loss. Hear and Say’s CEO Dr Dimity Dornan was keen to stress however, that the work of FutureHear will not only help children in Brisbane, but it also has the potential to transform families across the world. She speaks here in FutureHear’s crowdfunding video, alongside families and children helped by the project, and FutureHear’s Associate Professor Mia Woodruff who sheds light on the project’s three stages:

‘There are 3 goals of the FutureHear project.:

To firstly create child-specific, ear prosthetics which cost less than a pair of glasses.

Secondly to crease tissue engineered ears which are permanently implanted into the child with full biological function.

Thirdly to address hearing functionalility and to develop 3D printed electronics to incorporate a hearing component to our 3D printed, life like, child specific ears.’

(Quote taken from FutureHear’s crowdfunding campaign page.)

There are only three days left to reach their ultimate goal of $200,000 (AUD) which will be used for a purpose-built 3D printing facility on site. Though there are rewards on offer for those who pledge to the fund, I believe the ultimate reward would be in providing all you can to such a noble and heart-felt cause.

Featured image shows ‘The Future is Hear’ Image via: FutureHear.org

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