Electrical engineer Dr. Lichauan Liu of Northern Illinois University (NIU) has designed technology to prevent hearing loss in newborns who are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
NICUs are noisy places. According to Almadhoob and Ohlsson (2020), sound levels in NICUs range from 7 dB to 120 dB and often exceed the maximum acceptable level of 45 dB recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Even more concerning is that noise exposure to a pre-term infant can cause apnea, hypoxemia, alterations in oxygen saturation, and increased oxygen consumption secondary to elevated heart and respiratory rates. This, in turn, can decrease calorie absorption. High noise levels also are associated with an increased rate of errors and accidents, leading to decreased performance among staff (Wachman and Lahav, 2011).
Nearly a decade ago, Dr. Liu began a partnership with Invictus Medical to commercialize her active noise control (ANC) device, called the Neoasis. The Neoasis, which is placed on an infant’s incubator, uses a proprietary active noise control system to significantly reduce harmful noises via wave cancelling technology, while maintaining communication between newborns and their parents or caregivers.
In July 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use. With this clearance, Invictus has moved forward toward deploying the Neoasis ANC device in NICUs. It is well documented that a quieter environment has a positive impact, including improved sleep hygiene and weight gain in infants where both are critical for development.
Dr. Liu continues to work on other projects that use noise cancellation, such as a pillow that would cancel out the sound of snoring. Dr. Liu is making hearing health improvements for infants and adults!
Almadhoob A, Ohlsson A. (2020) Sound reduction management in the neonatal intensive care unit for preterm or very low birth weight infants. Coche Data Syst Rev. 1(1):CD010333. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010333.pub3. PMID: 31986231; PMCID: PMC6989790.
The Hearing Review. (2023) Researcher develops tech to prevent hearing loss in NICU infants. (accessed September 8).
Wachman EM, Lahav A. (2011) The effects of noise on preterm infants in the NICU. Arch Dis Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed 96(4):F305–309.
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