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CSI of the future: earprinting?

Contributed by | Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Could the world of fingerprinting be replaced with the world of….earprinting? New research suggests your ears are just as unique to you as your fingerprints. 

According to Yale Scientific Magazine, your ears may have the potential to be used as a means of identification, just like your fingertips, through a new form of laser imaging. Although fingerprints will still likely remain the primary method of identification for the foreseeable future, the technology pinpoints yet another way we’re all different from one another and could further advance the study of hearing loss

Earprinting technology is
being developed and 
utilized as another form of
personal identification.

The technology, known as image ray transform, was developed by researchers at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science. The laser scans the unique curves and bends of the ear thousands of times, creating a detailed outline, then converts the information into a series of numbers that can be used to identify each individual person. In a study of 250 participants, the technology correctly identified the person whose ears it scanned an impressive 99.6 percent of the time. In comparison, fingerprints are accurate 99.8 percent of the time.

Ear identification technology is better than facial recognition technology because the ears aren’t susceptible to background information or changes in expression, Mark Nixon, resident computer scientist and lead researcher of image ray technology, said in the article. But that doesn’t mean other obstacles don’t exist: aside from circumstances that could impede the laser, such as jewelry, long hair, hats or glasses, dim light or inadequate angling, the issue of how your ears change as you age remains.

Research shows our ears continue elongating as we get older, which would affect the shape of your ear, and therefore the identification codes the sensor uses to create your earprint. Ears are also more susceptible to injury than fingerprints, and more readily altered through plastic surgery. But aging also affects fingerprints and irises, so no technology is perfect. While the discovery is pretty neat, no one is predicting that ears will replace fingerprints in crime labs and security scanners anytime soon.

This new discovery does reinforce the idea that ears are totally unique to an individual. Your hearing loss takes its own distinct shape in much the same way, with variances that aren’t necessarily found in the next person with hearing loss. Your hearing loss also changes over time, much like your ears, and your hearing aids need to be continually adjusted and tuned. Between the shape of your ears and the way your hearing loss has manifested itself, it only makes sense that your hearing aids need to be customized to fit your individual needs.

That’s where a hearing health practitioner comes in. While ordering hearing aids online may appear less expensive in the short term, they won’t be anywhere near as comfortable or effective as hearing aids purchased in conjunction with the help of a hearing health practitioner. There are too many potential causes of hearing loss to count and even more unknown causes that researchers have yet to identify. Various types of hearing loss occur in different ways and affect different parts of the ear, which is just one more reason your hearing loss is like your fingerprint.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, audiologists and practitioners can see exactly how to tweak your hearing aids to fit your personal shape of hearing loss through an audiogram, a chart that measures your hearing loss across various frequencies and volumes. If you suspect you have hearing loss but have not seen a hearing healthcare professional about it, make an appointment today to learn about your unique ears. After all, from your fingers to your facial features to your irises, everyone is different; our ears are no different, so don’t treat yours like they’re somebody else’s.

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