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Sep 21, 2016 9:55 AM ET

Archived: FutureHear: We will develop technology to rapidly produce 3D printed prosthetic ears for children born with microtia. The prosthetics will be patient-specific, easily accessible and very life-like.

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 21, 2016


Imagine you are born without an ear, or with an underdeveloped ear (termed Microtia). Imagine the phychosocial implications, potential bullying, the associated hearing issues. Imagine being a parent wanting their child to have a completely normal life, the uncertainty, the search for a solution. FutureHear will provide life like, removable ears to children born without them. We will develop cutting edged 3D scanning, modelling and printing platforms to create child-specific ear prosthetics for Microtia children from the day they are born. But we need your help to make this happen.


The  fabulous FutureHear project was a serendipitous meeting of hearts and minds in 2015 between Dr Dimity Dornan (founder of Hear and Say) and Dr Mia Woodruff (Biofabrication leader, QUT). Mia was presenting an “absolutely biofabulous” talk on 3D printing in medicine at QUT during their “grand challenge” lecture series. She was focussed on creating 3D printed, patient-specific implants for adults and children who were suffering from tissue loss as a result of trauma, cancer exisions, or congenital birth defects; her area of expertise. Dimity and her clinical director, Emma Rushbrooke were in the audience and posed the question: “Can you 3D print ears?” Mia replied, “Yes, but we’ve never really focussed on that…….. why?”. Mia went on to learn about Hear and Say, the incredible Brisbane-based charity who teach children to hear speak and listen, they support, empower and equip children and their families through their incredible network and clinical expertise, to overcome the many obstacles that they may be faced with when they are born without hearing, or with conditions that may affect their hearing, such as incompletely formed ears or being born with no ear structure at all.  For Mia, this was a moment of complete clarity and research inspiration (plus a sizable dose of girl power!). We can address this issue, we want to help and most of all – we can help.  It’s fair to say that on that day Mia and her team at QUT found a new research direction. One with heart. One that could tangibly impact the lives of children, with the right support, in a relatively short period of time, children in this case who were less than 3km away from their 3D printing research lab, at QUT in Brisbane, Children who suffer from Microtia. This was the day that the FutureHear vision was born. To create 3D printed prosthetics for children born without an ear, and this vision goes way beyond Brisbane. If together we can create child-specific 3D printed ear prosthetics through 3D modelling and printing – what’s to stop this becoming a global initiative, and what’s to stop us reaching beyond the prosthetics goal, towards tissue engineered implantable ears and bionic ears with hearing functionality? Support us to make this reality. 


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.


This has unbelievable reach and impact and we hope that you can join this FutureHear journey to help us realise this vision. If you do, you will be an integral part of our FutureHear family and we will reward you with constant online project updates and insight into a 3D printing laboratory. But most of all, you’ll be eventually giving the gift of an ear to a child who doesn’t have one, to enable them to grow up without the stigma of being bullied for looking different, and ultimately we will be able to develop world leading hearing technology to reach out to even more children and their families. Here we will tell you about stage one. 3D printed ear prosthetics and how we are turning to crowdfunding to support this first amazing initiative. You can join us on this journey, you can make a real contribution to real lives. Please pledge.


Microtia is a congenital disorder that affects the formation of the external ear and occurs in around 1 in every 6,000 births worldwide. It is often associated with atresia, a condition where the ear canal is not present.  Unfortunately, microtia impacts the emotional and psychological health of these children and their families.  Two year old Maia, shown below, is beautiful bubbly young girl born with microtia, and we can change her life. You can join us in our mission to develop the latest 3D scanning, 3D modeling and 3D printing technologies for the rapid production of personalised and life-like prosthetic ears for children just like like Maia.


Hear and Say in an incredible charity founded by Dr Dimity Dornan AO who helps children with hearing impairment reach their full potential through personalised listening and spoken language therapy.  They also work hard to help children with microtia overcome hearing impairment – but they want to do more! This quest led to a close collaboration with Dr Mia Woodruff from Queensland University of Technologyand the FutureHear project was born!


We will develop technology to rapidly produce 3D printed prosthetic ears for children born with microtia.  The prosthetics will be patient-specific, easily accessible and very life-like.  Our team are working on 3D scanning technology that is non-invasive, cheap and easy to use, creating a comfortable environment for the children to be in. We’ve developing the best ways to 3D model this scan information to send it to the printer and have a product in as little as a day! 





Traditional prosthetics are expensive and very labour intensive to make as they require moulding and sculpting by a highly skilled prosthetist. They also need to be replaced due to wear and sun damage every few years creating a big expense to families.  These prostheses are made from medical grade silicone which is painted to look more life-like.  Our prosthetics will differ in a number of key ways, outlined below. We have the capacity to do this research, but our seed funding runs out in a few weeks and the project cannot continue.  Help us continue this life-changing research.




How The Funds Will Be Used

By supporting our project you will be helping our work come to life for children born with microtia. Although we’ve already started to made some great progress towards our end goal we still need funds to be able to buy equipment, consumables and continue to employ our researchers to do what they do best! 


This includes items such as advanced multi materails 3D printers, printing filament, silicone, cameras and funds to support positions for scientists and researchers, including post-docs, PhD students and research assistants.



Through the funds generated from this campaign we will be able to achieve our goal of having 3D printing facility at Hear and Say for our 3D printed prosthetics to be made in house in a familiar environment to the children and their families.  


If we are able to exceed our target of $200,000 this will help start to fund our further research into biofabricated implants for ear reconstruction. 

The Challenges

One of the main challenges we face as medical researchers is gaining grant support to fund this groundbreaking science. With more pilot data attained via the support of this crowdfunding campaign, we are much more likely to be able to secure bigger research grants in the future to take FutureHear into the second and third stages (tissue engineered ears and bionics). Without your support, there’s a real risk this project will end at Christmas. We don’t want that to happen, there’s so much we can achieve!


By pledging your support to this crowdfunding campaign we will have the funds we need to cover salaries for fantastic scientists, equipment and resources to ensure we develop the best possible solutions for 3D printed ear prosthetics, to improve the quality of life for children with microtia.


With the lead up to Christmas we hope our loyal supportors understand that we would like to to have our rewards delivered as soon as posible to thank you for your support, but there may be some delays until Feb 2017.


The biggest challenge for us is getting our story heard. If you can spread the word and share our vision then you are helping turn our story into a success story.


Thanks again everyone

The Future is hear – please get behind it!


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