DEKALB, ILLINOIS – A groundbreaking technology developed by NIU Electrical Engineering Professor Lichuan Liu, designed to mitigate hearing loss in vulnerable newborns, could soon find its way into hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
In NICUs, noise levels often surpass recommended thresholds, contributing to hearing loss diagnosed in 2% to 10% of premature infants compared to just 0.1% of the general pediatric population.
Professor Liu’s innovation addresses this concern by introducing an apparatus, system, and method to drastically diminish harmful noises while maintaining crucial communication between newborns and their caregivers.
Incubator-Based Active Noise Reduction
The collaboration between NIU and Texas-based medical device company Invictus Medical began in 2014, with the technology subsequently licensed to Invictus. This partnership led to the development of an incubator-based active noise control (ANC) device, the Neoasis®, which has recently received FDA clearance for use.
“The Neoasis® ANC device’s FDA clearance marks a significant stride towards its deployment in neonatal intensive care units,” said George Hutchinson, CEO of Invictus Medical. The technology employs a proprietary active noise control system that attenuates noise using canceling sound wave technology while allowing parental voices to reach the infants, fostering cognitive development. The clearance enables Invictus to forge relationships with strategic partners to introduce the Neoasis® ANC device into NICUs.
Karinne Bredberg, director of NIU’s Office of Innovation, emphasized that technology transfer’s primary aim is to amplify research impact by creating innovative products and services for the public’s benefit. Mark Hankins, NIU’s assistant director for technology transfer, attributed the success of this venture to Professor Liu’s ingenuity and Invictus Medical’s dedication.
Professor Liu, who is also researching AI algorithms to detect the meaning behind infant cries, expressed her excitement about the potential of the Neoasis® ANC device in hospitals. “As a mom, I think this device is really something important. As an engineer, I’m happy to make an impact,” she stated.
The technology’s journey to fruition received funding support from the NIU Foundation and a National Science Foundation’s Small Business Technology Transfer grant. Beyond NICUs, Professor Liu is exploring other applications for noise cancellation technology, including a snore-canceling pillow and a system for adult intensive care units. Furthermore, her work on an AI algorithm to discern normal from abnormal infant cries could potentially integrate into future iterations of the Neoasis® ANC device.
This groundbreaking technology not only showcases the potential of academic-industry collaboration but also exemplifies the far-reaching impact of innovative research on vital aspects of healthcare.
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.