On the design of a MEMS piezoelectric accelerometer coupled to the middle ear as an implantable sensor for hearing devices
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The presence of external elements is a major limitation of current hearing aids and cochlear implants, as they lead to discomfort and inconvenience. Totally implantable hearing devices have been proposed as a solution to mitigate these constraints, which has led to challenges in designing implantable sensors. This work presents a feasibility analysis of a MEMS piezoelectric accelerometer coupled to the ossicular chain as an alternative sensor. The main requirements of the sensor include small size, low internal noise, low power consumption, and large bandwidth. Different designs of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers were modeled using Finite Element (FE) method, as well as optimized for high net charge sensitivity. The best design, a 2 × 2 mm2 annular configuration with a 500 nm thick Aluminum Nitride (AlN) layer was selected for fabrication. The prototype was characterized, and its charge sensitivity and spectral acceleration noise were found to be with good agreement to the FE model predictions. Weak coupling between a middle ear FE model and the prototype was considered, resulting in equivalent input noise (EIN) lower than 60 dB sound pressure level between 600 Hz and 10 kHz. These results are an encouraging proof of concept for the development of MEMS piezoelectric accelerometers as implantable sensors for hearing devices.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22219-7
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