This paper documents the development of a miniature programmable completely-in-the-canal hearing aid (“active earplug”) aimed as a tool for auditory neuroscience research. The main motivation of this project is to provide researchers with the ability to chronically change chosen aspects of the auditory experience in animals or human subjects. The active earplug is designed around a compact system-on-a-chip package (Belasigna 300, ON Semiconductors, Phoenix, USA) comprising digital converters, preamplifiers and a DSP processor. This chip interfaces with miniature receiver and microphone (Knowles, Itasca, IL, USA) with minimal supporting circuitry. The active earplug is designed to be custom-fitted in each subject’s ear canal using a silicone mold. Arbitrary signal processing algorithms can be implemented on the DSP, therefore modifications of the acoustic inputs of the ear with an earplug can be chronically tested. This active earplug will enable researchers to study the effects of chronic expose to arbitrary signal degradations or augmentations, including hearing aid algorithms.
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