The present invention refers to an at least partially acoustically sealing element for retaining an in-the-ear hearing device or component thereof within an ear canal and to a method for producing the at least partially acoustically sealing element.
In particular the invention relates to acoustic sealing retainers for extended wear applications of hearing aids and hearing aid components. In such an application, the hearing aid is placed e.g. deep into the ear canal of a patient (∼4mm to the TM) and can remain there for a period of several weeks or even months without the need of taking out the device.
A schematic view of an extended wear hearing instrument (2) placed deep in the ear canal close to the tympanic membrane with the acoustic seals is shown in the attached figure 1.
Some generic requirements for extended wear sealing retainers are given in Table 1 below.
Some generic requirements for extended wear sealing retainers.
||Minimal pressure on canal walls upon compression or deformation|
||Local pressure on the ear canal wall smaller than ∼12mmHg (=venous capillary return pressure)|
|Water vapor transmission
||High water vapor transmission rate in order to reduce moisture accumulation in the closed ear canal.|
|Retention / friction - No migration
||Sufficient surface friction to the surrounding skin in order to avoid migration of the device|
|Mechanical relaxation / acoustic sealing
||Sufficient acoustic attenuation in order to prevent feedback (typical: >30dB between 200 Hz and 6 kHz).|
|Durability / environmental resistance
||No degradation or change of structural integrity in prolonged contact with sweat, ear wax and soapy water.|
|Venting / static pressure equalization
||Allow static pressure equalization between surrounding and closed residual volume in ear canal.|
||Skin biocompatibility with regard to ISO 10993-1 (not cytotoxic, no irritant, no sensitization)|
Compression-designed sealing retainers for extended wear hearing devices are well known and various publications have been established regarding their design.
 US 2002/025055 A1
describes a deformable hearing aid for insertion into an ear canal. The device comprises a plastic skin and an internal volume contains a compressible open cell foam. This enabels the hearing aid to conform to the ear canal upon insertion and to excert an outward force against the skin thus forming a seal.
Within the US 07580537
a generic description of seal design for extended wear applications for focus on minimal contact force and scallop design is given. Different materials are mentioned, including porous foams of silicones and other elastomers.
The US 07664282
contains a generic description of seal design for extended wear applications with focus on minimal contact force and scallop design is given. Different materials are mentioned, including porous foams of silicones and other elastomeric polymers.
The US 07113611
discloses a large variety of eartips for a non-custom CIC with different solutions for venting. The tip is flexible and molded of a continuous material.
Main limitation of the current designs is manufacturing reproducibility within the narrow specifications as mentioned in Table 1. Currently manufactured seals for extended wear applications are made of hydrophilic polyurethane foam that is net-shaped molded. Figure 2 as attached shows a cross section of a typical seal for extended wear applications.
The surface to volume ratio is very much in disfavor of a net-shape reaction molding method, since such reactions are usually rather fast and thus difficult to control in a very limited volume. Parameters such as ration of A/B components of the PUR foam, temperature of components, shear rate of mixing, environmental temperature and humidity, amount of mixture poured into a mould, surface properties (roughness, wettability) and temperature of such a mould and the time from filling and closing a mould (shut-off time) all play a critical role for the quality of foam such as size and distribution of pores, skin thickness and material density. As for a hearing aid application usually several sizes of such seals are necessary these parameters have to be identified and controlled for each design. Furthermore the current manufacturing method has significant limitations when it comes to the minimal wall thickness or feature size that can be manufactured with the current reactive foaming approach. In order to fulfill the rather tight specifications given in Table 1 above, the manufacturing process of net-shape foaming is followed by various measurement steps (size, flexibility, acoustic attenuation) which limit the throughput at the manufacturing site and significantly increase cost.
Alternative manufacturing methods of net-shaping a porous polymer parts are well known for thermoplastic elastomers and silicone rubbers. Such parts can be made by physical foaming where a highly pressurized gas is injected into the molten or yet uncured polymer and thus by controlled expansion in a mold creates a porous structure (examples are the MuCell process by Trexel, http://www.trexel.com/
, or the OptiFoam process by Sulzer, http://www.suizerchemtech.com
). However the basic problem still remains as these technologies also have limitations when it comes to the manufacturing of small parts with minimal wall thickness and an adverse surface to volume ratio.
To manufacture a compression-design acoustic seal for an extended wear application the process must allow for exact control of mechanical dimensions as well as size and distribution of pores within the part in order to have sufficient flexibility, acoustic attenuation and moisture vapor transport rate. In rough figures, this can be summarized as in the following table 2:
|Ideal mechanical design rules would be:
||Local wall thickness of <0.3mm must be possible|
|Geometric features (holes, steps) of < 0.3mm must be possible|
|Sudden wall thickness changes of <0.3mm to > 1.5mm|
||Porosity > 50%|
|Average pore size 100□m|
|Minimum pore size 50□m|
|Maximum pore size 150□m|
||It is hypothesized that a rough surface (µm-scale) is preferable for comfort and ear health.|
This is very difficult to achieve with an in-situ foaming process as pore distribution and size are determined by the different phases of the foaming. Defined surface roughness is difficult to achieve, since usually a compact flat skin is formed during curing in the mold. However a smooth surface is not always favorable, as it allows a film of liquid to form between the skin and the seal.
The object of the present invention is to propose an alternative to known foam seals to avoid the described disadvantage.
The further object is to propose a manufacturing process for producing seals in an accelerated and easier way as actually known.
According to the present invention an at least partially acoustically sealing element for retaining an in-the-ear hearing device within an ear canal is described according to the wording of claim 1. Proposed is that the element comprises at least one textile layer made out of a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric or fibrous-web respectively and that it is brought into a three-dimensional geometry by means of thermoforming.Industrial textile technology is widely used in biomedicine to produce components for medical products such as vascular grafts, hernia meshes and the like. Depending on both, the material and the texture, textiles offer a unique set of properties making textiles favorable to be used for seals in extended wear applications or as earpieces (domes) in open or closed fittings.
Textiles commonly used in biomedical application are made out of fibers such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethyleneterephthalate (PET; polyester), polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polytetrafluo-rethylene (PTFE), polyglycolides and polylactides. The fibers get amalgamated into homogeneous fabrics using different fabrication techniques. Knitted structures are formed by interlocking loops of yarn tying knots in an either weft or warp pattern. Woven fabrics are created by interlacing yarns or wires in an over-under perpendicular pattern. Nonwoven structures can be formed by electro-spinning or by interlocking fibers and filaments using mechanical, thermal, or chemical means.
Depending on both, the choice of the fiber material and the manufacturing technique mechanical and physical properties like flexibility, density, conformability, compressibility, acoustic attenuation, porosity and permeability can be adjusted according to the specific requirement of the application.
The use of textiles for hearing aid applications is known in general. US 7,043,038 B2
describes an InEar device comprising an active module and an outer textile layer which snugly adapts to the individual geometry of the ear canal to compensate for ear canal movements during speeking and chewing. The textile layer can consist of single sub-layers with different properties. However the document does not explain how a three-dimensionally shape could be generated from a generally two-dimensional textile structure.
This is the content of the current invention.
While there are well established methods to manufacture tubular textile structures (e.g. circular weawing) it is more difficult to bring textile into a three-dimensional shape with fine geometrical details in the sub-millimeter range. The approach presented here is to use the process of thermoforming for the manufacturing of detailed three-dimensional structures and the resulting structures as seals or earpieces for hearing instruments.
Thus, the invention claims an at least partially acoustically sealing element for retaining an in-the-ear device within an ear canal, characterized in that the element comprises at least one textile layer and is manufactured by means of thermoforming.
According to one embodiment, it is proposed that the porosity of the layer is designed to allow high moisture and gas permeability.
According to a further embodiment it is proposed that the element is of a sandwich-like structure comprising at least two layers.
According to again a further embodiment it is proposed that the fabric is consisting of a thermo-plastic polymer material.
Again, according to a further embodiment at least one layer consisting of a hydrophobic and bio inactive material with a smooth outer surface, which is skin compatible.
Furthermore, it is proposed that at least one layer containing acoustically high absorption properties.
Further embodiments are described within further dependent claims or with reference to the attached drawings.
Further proposed is a method for producing an at least partially acoustically sealing element for retaining an in-the-ear device within an ear canal. In principal all kind of methods are feasible proposing the possibility of manufacturing a woven, non-woven, knitted or fibrous-web structure.
The present invention proposes the approach of using textiles made out of thermoplastic fiber materials as an acoustic seal that is shaped to its final form by a thermoforming process. The seal consisting of one or more layers, of which at least one layer is a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric, is thermoformed to its final form to be used as a sealing element for a hearing instrument in the ear canal.
Because of ergonomic reasons seals and earpieces have typically the shape of a dome as shown in Figure 3. The shaping of a textile to a dome like shape can be done in several ways depending on the material and the fabrication technique of the textile. The technique proposed by the present invention report suggests the application of the thermoforming process. As a prerequisite for the thermoforming process the textile has to have thermoplastic properties in order to bring the textile in a permanent shape. In the thermoforming process the textile gets heated to a temperature between the glass transition temperature (Tg) and the melting point (Tm) of its filaments. At this temperature the textile gets pliable and can be formed to its final shape. Once the textile has taken its final shape the temperature gets reduced below Tg whereby the given shape of the textile gets frozen. The shape induced by the thermoforming process is regarded as permanent as long as the textile does not get exposed to a temperature close or above Tg during its usage. The thermoforming process is a fast and highly reproducible process thus especially suited for high volume production. Furthermore the invention proposes to manufacture the fabric or fibrous webs for the seal by using the combination of electrospinning together with thermoforming as described above.
One basic idea of the proposed method is to fabricate the seals first e.g. by the approach of electrospinning. Electrospinning is a well-known and established technology allowing the fabrication of fleeces with tailored chemical and physical properties. Its fundamental idea are patented in 1934 by Formhals.  Since the 1980s and especially in recent years, the electrospinning process gained high attraction due to a surging interest in nanotechnology, as ultrafine fibers or fibrous structures of various polymers with diameters down to submicrons or nanometers can be easily fabricated with this process.
Electrospinning shall be described in more details later on in relation to the attached figures.
With reference to the attached figures, examples of possible processes are described for the better understanding of the present invention. Within the attached drawings;
Figure 1 shows in general a schematic view of an extended wear hearing instrument placed deep in the ear canal;
Figure 2 shows a cross-section of a typical steel for extended wear applications molded according to known methods in the art;
Figure 3 shows silicon earpieces and poyleruethane seals as known in the art;
Figure 4 shows a perspective view on a laboratory equipment for executing the thermoforming process;
Figure 5a + b show the thermoforming process using a laboratory equipment according to Fig. 4;
Figure 6 shows a schematic description of electrospinning (taken from );
Figure 7 shows schematically a lab process to produce seals by electrospinning;
Figure 8 shows a possible implementation of a high volume in-line manufacturing process of seals;
Figure 9 shows example of fiber structures manufactured by electrospinning, and
Figure 10 shows a schematic view of an ear piece according to the present invention manufactured by thermoforming.
Detailed explanations regarding figure 1 and 2 have already been given within the description above.
Figure 3 shows silicon earpieces on the left side and polyurethane seals used for extended wear application on the right side. Both types have a dome-like shape.
Fig. 4 shows a laboratory equipment 51 with mounted positive 53 and negative 55 heated molds for the execution of the thermoforming process for the production of seals according to the present invention.
In practice, the thermoforming process would be done in one step. An e.g. textile tape consisting of one or more layers, of which at least one is a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric is conveyed to the forming tool 51 as shown in fig. 5a, where the textile gets thermoformed. In fig. 5b the e.g. sandwiched multilayer fabric 57 is shown after the thermoforming process, where the dome-like shaped section 59 is achieved.
After the forming process the tape is further conveyed to a singulation station (not shown), where the individual seals or earpieces get mechanically punched out of the tape 57. The production frequency would be within some 10 sec. providing a highly efficient production process.
E.g. in a preliminary investigation a non-woven polypropylene fabrics has been thermoformed by clamping the fabrics at a temperature of 230°C between the core and the cavity taken from the reaction molding process of the Lyric seals. Temperature and clamping force has been controlled by the experimental equipment shown in Figure. The process parameters determining the result of the thermoforming process are temperature, time above Tg, and clamping pressure.
In case of a multilayer tape consisting of more than one fabric layer made out of a thermoplastic polymer the thermoforming process has to be executed below the melting point of the polymer, with the lowest melting point.
The main advantages of thermoforming textiles for the manufacturing of earpieces and acoustic seals are listed in the following table.
||The relevant material properties for seals and earpieces are mechanical compliance, acoustic attenuation and moisture permeability. These properties can be controlled by the selection of an adequate fiber material and by the texturing of the textile. Known properties of individual textile materials can be combined in on single material by calendaring.|
|Multilayer textile materials
||Textiles differing in their physical or chemical properties can be brought together into one single material by calendaring processes. By this a sandwich-like structure can be achieved whereas the material properties can be varied along its cross-section. As example it would be feasible to have a sandwich-like structure with a thin smooth non-porous outer layer hindering cell adhesion and providing good conformability to the ear canal skin and a highly porous inner layer allowing for a high moisture and gas permeability and providing good adherence to the module in the case where the acoustic seals are adhesion bonded to the electronic module of the hearing aid.|
|Material Properties and selection of the base material
||Ideally a standard textile material with known properties can be taken off-the-shelf as a base material which can either be directly thermoformed or modified in a refining process prior thermoforming.|
|If textiles which are commercially available do not meet the requirements, a proprietary textile material can be customized by choosing the fiber material and the fabric technique. For example the manufacturing of such a textile material with a set of well-designed material properties could be realized by using the technique of electro-spinning.|
||The technology of textile processing is highly standardized and trimmed to high volume production. As a consequence textile processes are fast, reliable and cost efficient.|
Advantages by using thermoformed textiles for acoustic seals and earpieces.
The production of the woven, non-woven or knitted fabric can be executed as known in the art and therefore the present invention refers to any kind of woven, non-woven or knitted fabrics.
According to one special aspect of the present invention it is proposed that a non-woven textile realized by electrospinning is used for the thermoforming process for the manufacturing of seals.
Electrospinning as depicted in Figure 6 as attached uses a high electric field applied between a tip of a die and an electrode. A droplet of a fluid (melt or solution) is feed to the tip of a die where it gets deformed by the electric field until it ejects building a charged jet from the tip toward the counter electrode where the fleece evolves. The advantages of electrospinning compared to more conventional spinning technologies are the feasibility to lace together a variety of types of polymers and fibers to produce layers of tailored structure and properties. Depending on the process parameters and specific polymer being used, a range of properties such as porosity, strength, weight moisture and gas permeability can be achieved in a controlled manner. The possibility of large scale productions combined with the simplicity of the process makes this technique very attractive for many different applications in biomedicine (e.g. tissue engineering, wound dressing, drug release, and enzyme immobilization), protective material, sensors, filtration and reinforced nano-composites . The applications of electrospinning have been reviewed in a number of publications[2,5].
In Gibson et al.  the applications of electrospun layers directly onto 3D-screen forms obtained by 3D-scan are described.
The following describes the application of the process to the use case of manufacturing seals for extended wear.
In the present invention electrospun fibers of a polymer solution get accelerated in an electric field of several kV and get directed towards the inner side of a rotating mandrel functioning as both, an electrode and the net-shape of the final seal. A schematic of the process is depicted in Figure 5. The thickness of the seal, the mechanical compliance, the acoustic attenuation, the moisture and gas permeability can be adjusted and controlled by the selection of the polymer and by controlling the process parameters. This technique would have several significant advantages as it allows the properties of the fabric to be tailored in a way that is not feasible with the technique used today.
One example: today the polyurethane foam seals have to be coated with a silicone coating (see also US 07664282
and US 07580537
) in order to increase surface friction. Such a coating is no longer necessary in the proposed design and manufacturing method, as the coating can be either applied as an integral part of the coating process (= one first layer of material) or even completely omitted since the surface properties (density, porosity, roughness) can be controlled during the deposition process for the outer layer.
Another example concerns the porosity: from a physiological point of view it would be advantageous to have a smooth non-porous outer layer hindering cell adhesion and providing acoustic attenuation and a highly porous inner layer allowing for a high moisture and gas permeability. Electrospinning offers the unique property to control the porosity of the evolving fleece by varying the process parameters (e.g. voltage, distance between the electrodes or flow rate) and thus is able to produce a gradually changing porosity in a single fleece .
Also coming to the manufacturing of the seals, electrospinning is advantageous as the process parameters are easily accessible and can be controlled within a narrow specification resulting in a lower process variability and higher yield. The process parameters include (a) the solution properties, such as viscosity, elasticity, conductivity and surface tension, (b) governing variables, such as hydrostatic pressure in the capillary tube, electric potential at the capillary tip and the gap (distance between the tip and the collecting screen) and (c) ambient parameters, such as solution temperature, humidity and air velocity in the electrospinning chamber .
Electrospinning can be done in a simple laboratory scale as shown in figure 7 or in a fully automatic in line process as depicted in figure 8. Within figure 7 schematically the lab process to produce seals by electrospinning is shown, where on the left the polymer- or polymer solution jet respectively is dispensed from an electrode spray gun 1 and guided and accelerated through an electric field 3. On the left of figure 7, the polymer jet is directed to a positive mold 5 and on the right to a negative mold 7. By using the laboratory scale setup as shown in figure 7, the polymer solution is deposited on the positive or negative mold, from which it can be separated afterwards. The dimensioning of the pin 9 on the left side or the cavity 11 on the right side is done according to known method for conventionally produced foamed sealing elements as known in the state of the art.
In a more industrialized in line process, as shown in figure 8, a drum 21 rotates in a polymer solution 23 and an electric field 25 between the drum and a slowly rotating cylinder 27 leads to the formation of a linear jet stream of polymer filling the cavities on the surface of the cylinder 27. By coating the rotating cylinder 27 continuously, a fleece 29 evolves tangentially to the slowly rotating cylinder which can be directed to a collecting spindle 39. On the course between the origin of the fleece and the spindle winding the fleece the seals get singularized by the use of a laser 31 or punch tool. Finally, the seal cut at 33, drop through a funnel 35 into a basket 37, where they can be taken for subsequent processing and testing.
The main advantages of electrospinning for the manufacturing of hearing instrument ear pieces compared to the method used today, are listed in the following table 4:
Table 4: Advantages of electrospinning for the manufacturing of earpieces
||A large number of polymers are qualified to be used for Electrospinning|
|Huang et. al reported in 2003 that nearly one hundred different polymers, mostly dissolved in solvents have been successfully spun by electrospinning.|
|A comprehensive data base of polymers suitable for electrospinning is presented in . It is also feasible to use blends of polymer solutions to combine favorable properties from a number of different polymers in one fiber.|
|Candidates suggested as a base material for seals: PCL, PUR, PLA, PVA, Silk-like polymer, Silk/PEO blend, CA, PLGA, Collagen, Polyether block amide (PEBA).|
|Mechanical design and acoustic sealing
||No restrictions regarding minimal local wall thickness, holes and steps. Feature sizes down to the micrometer can be achieved by a proper process control. |
|Mechanical compliance and acoustic sealing can be tailored by the materialization, the diameter of the fiber, the alignment of the fibers and the material density.|
||Porosity can easily be controlled by the process parameters. It would be feasible to have a sandwich-like structure with a smooth non-porous outer layer hindering cell adhesion and providing good acoustic attenuation and a highly porous inner layer allowing for a high moisture and gas permeability.|
||Electrospinning is a well-established production method allowing large scale production with narrow process variability resulting in low yield losses.|
In figure 9 examples of fibrous structures are shown. As shown in the three examples membranes and sheets, realized e.g. by electrospinning, are stochastic depositions of fibrous structures in the micrometer and nanometer scale.
Furthermore, one significant feature that can be easily realized with e.g. the described electrospinning approach, is a controlled combination of different materials and porosities.
By calendering the properties of individually manufactured textiles can be amalgamated in one single sheet of textile. By this a sandwich-like structure can be achieved where the material properties can be varied along its cross-section. As example it would be feasible to have a sandwich-like structure with a smooth non-porous outer layer hindering cell adhesion and providing good acoustic attenuation and a highly porous inner layer allowing for a high moisture and gas permeability. A schematic drawing of such a sandwich-like structure is shown in Figure 10.
The figure shows an earpiece made by electrospinning and thermoforming that consists of three different layers. Those layers can be different in density/porosity, thickness and material combination for different functional features as described in table 3. The schematic view of an ear piece manufactured by electrospinning and thermoforming as shown in figure 10 shows a three-layer design. The outer layer 41 consists e.g. of a hydrophobic and bio compatible material, with a smooth surface with low porosity, which is skin compatible. The core layer 43 should be compressible and include a so called pillow-effect. In other words, the in between or core layer 43 could be made out of a thermoformed fabric or a foam, such as e.g. a polyurethane foam. The inner layer 45 should have an acoustically high absorption, which means, should include acoustic damping properties. For the production of the woven, non-woven, knitted or fleece-like fabric to be used in connection with the sealing elements, any method known in the art is possible in combination with the thermoforming process as proposed according to the present invention.
The great advantage of the seals as proposed within the present invention is that they comprise at least one layer which is a woven, non-woven, knitted or fibrous-web as proposed in one of the claims.
Compared to the state of the art where different layers of material with different properties are either combined by laminating layers together as described in US6310961
or by applying a coating e.g. by dipping an earpiece into a polymer solution as described in US07580537
the present invention offers a far more flexible approach in combining materials and structures during the manufacturing of an earpiece.
The great advantage of an ear piece or acoustic sealing retainer as proposed according to the present invention allow unique features for optimal wearing comfort and patient safety for future ear pieces due to the tailored material properties. Furthermore, the manufacturing costs are lower because of low process variability, higher yield better process control and more in line manufacturability.
The proposed material and processing method can also be used for other hearing instrument components, such as non-custom ear pieces for high power fittings.
-  Formhals, 1934. s.l. Patentnr. US patent 1,975,504
-  Huanga, Z.-M., 2003. A review on polymer nanofibers by electrospinning and. Composites Science and Technology, p. 2223-2253.
-  Fortunato, 2012. Polymerverarbeitung. MedTech Day, EMPA, 2012
-  Agarwal, S., 49 (2008). Use of electrospinning technique for biomedical applications. Polymer, p. 603-5621.
-  Anon., 2007. Mini-review Some fascinating phenomena in electrospinning processes and applications of electrospun nanofibers. Polymer International, p. 1330-1339.
-  Gibson, 2001. Transport properties of porous membranes based on electrospun nanofibers. A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects, p. 469-481.
-  Zhu., 2006. Funct Mater , p. 568.
-  www.elmarco.com
1. An at least partially acoustically sealing element for retaining an in-the-ear device (2) within an ear canal, characterized in that:
the element has a dome-like shape and comprises at least one textile layer made out of thermoplastic fiber materials that is shaped to the dome-like shape by means of thermoforming.
2. Element according to claim 1, characterized in that the porosity of the at least one layer allowing high moisture and gas permeability.
3. Element according to one of the claims 1 or 2, characterized in that the element is of a sandwich like structure comprising at least two textile layers.
4. Element according to one of the claims 1 to 3, characterized in that at least one textile layer is generated by means of electrospinning.
5. Element according to one of the claims 1 to 4, characterized in that at least one textile layer (41) consists of a hydrophobic and bio-inert material with a smooth outer surface, which is skin compatible.
6. Process for manufacturing a seal for retaining an in-the-ear hearing device by thermoforming a sheet of textile comprising at least one layer consisting of a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric, said seal being at least partially acoustically sealing when retained in the ear and being dome-like shaped.
7. Process according to claim 6, characterized in that the sheet with the at least one layer consisting of a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric or textile made out of a polymer material is formed into a permanent shape according to the shape of the seal using a thermoforming process of the fabric heated to a temperature between the glass transition temperature and the melting point of the polymer, once the fabric has taken its final shape, the temperature gets reduced below the glass transition temperature, whereby the given shape of the textile gets frozen into the shape of the seal.
8. Process according to one of the claims 6 or 7, characterized in that in case of the sheet comprising two or more layers consisting of a woven, non-woven or knitted fabric or textile material made out of different polymer materials the sheet is formed into a permanent shape according to the shape of the seal using a thermoforming process of the fabric heated to a temperature between the glass transition temperature and the melting point of that polymer having the lowest melting point, and once the fabric has taken its final shape, the temperature gets reduced below the glass transition temperature of such polymer, having the lowest glass transition temperature, whereby the given shape of the textile gets frozen into the shape of the seal.
9. Process according to one of the claims 6 to 8, characterized in that at least one textile layer is generated by means of electro spinning.
Process according to one of the claims 7 or 8, characterized in that
the polymer comprises at least one of the following:
- Silk-like Polymer
- Polyether block amide (PEBA)
11. Process according to one of the 6 to 10, characterized in that a polymer solution (23) is deposited by electrospinning on a mold (5, 7) to produce at least one layer of the seal, the density, porosity and roughness is controlled during the deposition of the polymer solution on the mold (5, 7), before the seal is shaped to its final form by thermoforming.
12. Process according to one of the claims 6 to 11, characterized in that the thickness of the seal, the mechanical compliance, the acoustic attenuation the moisture and the gas permeability is being adjusted and controlled by the selection of the polymer and by controlling the process parameters during the deposition of the polymer solution (23) on the mold (5, 7).
13. Process according to claim 6, comprising the step of calendaring a multiplicity of individually manufactured textiles and amalgamating them in the sheet of textile to produce a sandwich-like structure where the material properties vary along a cross-section of the sheet of textile.
1. Wenigstens teilweise akustisch dichtendes Element zum Halten einer Im-Ohr-Vorrichtung (2) in einem Gehörgang, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:
das Element eine kuppelartige Form aufweist und wenigstens eine Textilschicht umfasst, die aus thermoplastischen Fasermaterialien besteht und die durch Warmformen zu der kuppelartigen Form geformt ist.
2. Element gemäß Anspruch 1, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Porosität der wenigstens einen Schicht eine hohe Feuchte- und Gasdurchlässigkeit ermöglicht.
3. Element gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 oder 2, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass das Element eine sandwichartige Struktur aufweist, die wenigstens zwei Textilschichten umfasst.
4. Element gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 3, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass wenigstens eine Textilschicht durch Elektrospinnen hergestellt ist.
5. Element gemäß einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass wenigstens eine Textilschicht (41) aus einem hydrophoben und bioinerten Material mit einer glatten Außenoberfläche, die hautverträglich ist, besteht.
6. Verfahren zur Herstellung einer Dichtung zum Halten einer Im-Ohr-Hörvorrichtung durch Warmformen einer Textilbahn, die wenigstens eine Schicht umfasst, die aus einem gewebten, nichtgewebten oder gewirkten Stoff besteht, wobei die Dichtung wenigstens teilweise akustisch dichtend ist, wenn sie in dem Ohr gehalten wird, und kuppelartig geformt ist.
7. Verfahren gemäß Anspruch 6, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Bahn mit der wenigstens einen Schicht, die aus einem gewebten, nichtgewebten oder gewirkten Stoff oder Textil aus einem Polymermaterial besteht, unter Verwendung eines Warmformverfahrens aus dem Stoff, der auf eine Temperatur zwischen der Glasübergangstemperatur und dem Schmelzpunkt des Polymers erhitzt wird, zu einer permanenten Form entsprechend der Form der Dichtung geformt wird, und die Temperatur unter die Glasübergangstemperatur verringert wird, sobald der Stoff seine Endform angenommen hat, wodurch die gegebene Form des Textils zu der Form der Dichtung eingefroren wird.
8. Verfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 6 oder 7, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass in dem Fall, dass die Bahn zwei oder mehr Schichten umfasst, die aus einem gewebten, nichtgewebten oder gewirkten Stoff oder Textilmaterial aus verschiedenen Polymermaterialien bestehen, die Bahn unter Verwendung eines Warmformverfahrens des Stoffs, der auf eine Temperatur zwischen der Glasübergangstemperatur und dem Schmelzpunkt des Polymers mit dem niedrigsten Schmelzpunkt erhitzt wird, zu einer permanenten Form entsprechend der Form der Dichtung geformt wird, und die Temperatur unter die Glasübergangstemperatur des Polymers mit der niedrigsten Glasübergangstemperatur verringert wird, sobald der Stoff seine Endform angenommen hat, wodurch die gegebene Form des Textils zu der Form der Dichtung eingefroren wird.
9. Verfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 8, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass wenigstens eine Textilschicht durch Elektrospinnen erzeugt ist.
Verfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 7 oder 8, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass
das Polymer wenigstens eines der folgenden umfasst:
- seidenartiges Polymer,
- Polyetherblockamid (PEBA),
11. Verfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 10, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass eine Polymerlösung (23) durch Elektrospinnen auf eine Form (5, 7) abgeschieden wird, um wenigstens eine Schicht der Dichtung zu erzeugen, wobei die Dichte, die Porosität und die Rauigkeit während des Abscheidens der Polymerlösung auf die Form (5, 7) gesteuert werden, bevor die Dichtung durch Warmformen zu ihrer Endform geformt wird.
12. Verfahren gemäß einem der Ansprüche 6 bis 11, dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Dicke der Dichtung, die mechanische Nachgiebigkeit, die akustische Abschwächung, die Feuchte- und die Gasdurchlässigkeit durch die Auswahl des Polymers und durch Steuern der Verfahrensparameter während des Abscheidens der Polymerlösung (23) auf die Form (5, 7) eingstellt und gesteuert werden.
13. Verfahren gemäß Anspruch 6, umfassend den Schritt des Kalandrierens einer Vielzahl von einzeln hergestellten Textilien und Vereinigen davon in der Textilbahn, um eine sandwichartige Struktur zu erzeugen, in der die Materialeigenschaften entlang des Querschnitts der Textilbahn variieren.
1. Élément d'isolation acoustique au moins partielle destiné à retenir un appareil intra-auriculaire (2) à l'intérieur d'un méat acoustique externe, caractérisé en ce que :
l'élément a une forme de dôme et comprend au moins une couche textile formée à partir de matières fibreuses thermoplastiques qui est mise sous la forme de dôme au moyen d'un thermoformage.
2. Élément selon la revendication 1, caractérisé en ce que la porosité de l'au moins une couche permet une perméabilité élevée à l'humidité et aux gaz.
3. Élément selon l'une des revendications 1 ou 2, caractérisé en ce que l'élément a une structure en sandwich comprenant au moins deux couches textiles.
4. Élément selon l'une des revendications 1 à 3, caractérisé en ce qu'au moins une couche textile est produite au moyen d'un électrofilage.
5. Élément selon l'une des revendications 1 à 4, caractérisé en ce qu'au moins une couche textile (41) est constituée d'une matière hydrophobe et bio-inerte présentant une surface externe lisse, qui est compatible avec la peau.
6. Procédé pour la fabrication d'un isolant destiné à retenir un appareil auditif intra-auriculaire par thermoformage d'une nappe de textile comprenant au moins une couche constituée d'une étoffe tissée, non tissée ou tricotée, ledit isolant faisant une isolation acoustique au moins partielle lorsqu'il est retenu dans l'oreille et ayant une forme de dôme.
7. Procédé selon la revendication 6, caractérisé en ce que la nappe comprenant l'au moins une couche constituée d'une étoffe ou d'un textile tissés, non tissés ou tricotés formés à partir d'une matière polymère est mise sous une forme permanente selon la forme de l'isolant à l'aide d'un procédé de thermoformage de l'étoffe chauffée à une température comprise entre la température de transition vitreuse et le point de fusion du polymère, une fois que l'étoffe a pris sa forme finale, la température est amenée à baisser au-dessous de la température de transition vitreuse, moyennant quoi la forme donnée du textile est amenée à être gelée en la forme de l'isolant.
8. Procédé selon l'une des revendications 6 ou 7, caractérisé en ce que dans le cas où la nappe comprend deux ou plus de deux couches constituées d'une étoffe ou matière textile tissée, non tissée ou tricotée formée à partir de matières polymères différentes la nappe est mise sous une forme permanente selon la forme de l'isolant à l'aide d'un procédé de thermoformage de l'étoffe chauffée à une température comprise entre la température de transition vitreuse et le point de fusion du polymère ayant le plus bas point de fusion et une fois que l'étoffe a pris sa forme finale, la température est amenée à baisser au-dessous de la température de transition vitreuse de ce polymère, ayant la plus basse température de transition vitreuse, moyennant quoi la forme donnée du textile est amenée à être gelée en la forme de l'isolant.
9. Procédé selon l'une des revendications 6 à 8, caractérisé en ce qu'au moins une couche textile est produite au moyen d'un électrofilage.
Procédé selon l'une des revendications 7 ou 8, caractérisé en ce que
le polymère comprend au moins l'un des suivants :
- de la polycaprolactone
- du polyuréthane
- du poly(acide lactique)
- du poly(acétate de vinyle)
- un polymère semblable à la soie
- un mélange de soie et de poly(oxyde d'éthylène)
- de l'acétate de cellulose
- du poly(acide lactique-co-acide glycolique)
- du poly(éther-bloc-amide) (PEBA)
- du collagène.
11. Procédé selon l'une des revendications 6 à 10, caractérisé en ce qu'une solution de polymère (23) est déposée par électrofilage sur un moule (5, 7) pour produire au moins une couche de l'isolant, la masse volumique, la porosité et la rugosité étant réglées pendant le dépôt de la solution de polymère sur le moule (5, 7), avant que l'isolant soit mis sous sa forme finale par thermoformage.
12. Procédé selon l'une des revendications 6 à 11, caractérisé en ce que l'épaisseur de l'isolant, l'aptitude mécanique à épouser une forme, l'atténuation acoustique et la perméabilité à l'humidité et aux gaz sont ajustées et réglées par le choix du polymère et par le réglage des paramètres de procédé pendant le dépôt de la solution de polymère (23) sur le moule (5, 7).
13. Procédé selon la revendication 6, comprenant l'étape de calandrage d'une multitude de textiles fabriqués individuellement et l'amalgame de ceux-ci dans la nappe de textile pour produire une structure en sandwich où les propriétés de la matière varient le long d'une section transversale de la nappe de textile.