Concept and considerations of a medical device: the active noise cancelling incubator
Background: An increasingly 24/7 connected and urbanised world has created a silent pandemic of noise-induced hearing loss. Ensuring survival to children born (extremely) preterm is crucial. The incubator is a closed medical device, modifying the internal climate, and thus providing an environment for the child, as safe, warm, and comfortable as possible. While sound outside the incubator is managed and has decreased over the years, managing the noise inside the incubator is still a challenge.
Method: Using active noise cancelling in an incubator will eliminate unwanted sounds (i.e., from the respirator and heating) inside the incubator, and by adding sophisticated algorithms, normal human speech, neonatal intensive care unit music-based therapeutic interventions, and natural sounds will be sustained for the child in the pod. Applying different methods such as active noise cancelling, motion capture, sonological engineering. and sophisticated machine learning algorithms will be implemented in the development of the incubator.
Projected Results: A controlled and active sound environment in and around the incubator can in turn promote the wellbeing, neural development, and speech development of the child and minimise distress caused by unwanted noises. While developing the hardware and software pose individual challenges, it is about the system design and aspects contributing to it. On the one hand, it is crucial to measure the auditory range and frequencies in the incubator, as well as the predictable sounds that will have to be played back into the environment. On the other, there are many technical issues that have to be addressed when it comes to algorithms, datasets, delay, microphone technology, transducers, convergence, tracking, impulse control and noise rejection, noise mitigation stability, detection, polarity, and performance.
Conclusion: Solving a complex problem like this, however, requires a de-disciplinary approach, where each discipline will realise its own shortcomings and boundaries, and in turn will allow for innovations and new avenues. Technical developments used for building the active noise cancellation-incubator have the potential to contribute to improved care solutions for patients, both infants and adults.