All-in-one hearing health assessment system

TympaHealth

Challenge
Help a start-up demonstrate feasibility of their novel smartphone-enabled otoscope to a major global pharmacy chain.

Approach
Team’s industrial designers and engineers developed designs ready for pilot manufacture within 2 weeks. Within 4 weeks we delivered fully functional prototypes of the hardware and helped the client getting their smartphone app ready for user testing in pharmacies. We enhanced the usability, ergonomics, robustness and appearance of the concept.

Outcome
The device has undergone user investigations and following CE marking, has been used on 15,000 patients. Team is working with TympaHealth on their next generation device for commercial launch, including scale-up for manufacture and CE marking.

Ear examination on the high street

Ear wax removal by micro-suction is traditionally performed in a hospital or clincal setting by medical professionals. To deliver this safely in the community, you would need a costly surgical microscope. Our client, TympaHealth, wanted to make the procedure more easily accessible by developing a solution that could be used in high street pharmacies by trained staff. TympaHealth’s idea was to attach an ear speculum to a smartphone to give a better view of the ear drum and also allow for ear wax to be removed through micro-suction and under direct vision. With significant interest from a major global pharmacy chain, TympaHealth needed to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept.

Learn, build, test, iterate

learning about ear was removal procedures

Understanding the real-world challenges of ear examinations was key. We learnt about ear wax removal procedures from our client (an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon) to allow us to build accurate foam and cardboard mock-ups and rapidly test several configurations. Using these mock-ups, we recreated the procedure to understand ergonomic challenges such as assessing factors that could improve balance when holding the device. The models revealed how crucial it was to develop a device suitable for both left and right-handed users. To solve this problem, we built weight-representative models to assess handling and came up with a simple pivoting handle.  

A pragmatic approach to pilot build

In 4 weeks, we manufactured 30 units and helped TympaHealth with their app, making sure is was ready for evaluation in pharmacies. Selecting the correct manufacturing process was crucial: injection moulding would be too lengthy and costly, while 3D prints would not be tough enough. Instead, we used our experience in fast turn-around prototype manufacturing to come up with a solution that could be achieved with a pilot manufacturing process.

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We decided to take a pragmatic approach by sourcing commercially available phone cases, and spent our time designing a custom handle. We built an attractive and robust solution that met timelines without compromising quality.

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Phone app for safe wax removal

The aim of the app was simple: ensure the image quality was good enough for safe wax removal. Our digital designers used a variety of UX/UI tools to enable the rapid prototyping of the core workflow and screen artwork for the app and created mock-ups on an iPhone.

App mock-ups allowed us to demonstrate the workflow and have a practical discussion with audiologists, giving us the confidence to move forward into coding the app. After 4 weeks, we had a working version of the app which allowed the user to zoom, adjust exposure and ISO settings, control the flash and switch between the left and right ear.

Drawing on our deep knowledge of design for manufacture, some smart design decisions and the latest prototyping technologies, we were able to meet TympaHealth’s tight deadlines and deliver a fully functioning digital and physical prototype within just six weeks.

Comment from our client

“Team’s ability to understand TympaHealth’s technical requirements, design challenges, to make critical decisions, evolve the design and produce prototypes quickly allowed TympaHealth to conduct numerous rounds of user studies (enhancing the design in the process) and obtain universal positive user feedback to secure funding and produce commercially viable products.”

Dr. Krishan Ramdoo, Founder and CEO
TympaHealth