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Sun August 19, 2012
Technology

Radical hearing aid design draws on an unlikely inspiration

While the majority of us would be very happy to see out the summer without flies ruining our outdoor dining experience, one particular species of fly has provided the inspiration for a potential breakthrough in the technology of hearing aids. It's not just any old house-fly we're talking about, though.

Binghamton University engineering professor Ron Miles says this particular fly, called the ormia ochracea, is special because it’s as good as a human at locating the source of a sound.

“The female fly, when she’s pregnant and needs to have her babies, she listens for crickets to sing," says Miles. "And when she hears the cricket, she’ll fly to the cricket and have her babies and these maggots then burrow into the cricket and a few days later, they’ll emerge and leave a hollow shell.”

So the fly’s behavior isn’t pretty. The way most animals locate sound doesn’t work for ormia ochracea, and it's useful to know how this tiny parasite can locate its host.

For more on this story and others from the Innovation Trail and Matt Richmond, visit their website. You can also follow Matt Richmond on Twitter @MattKRichmond.

The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate New York public media outlets. The initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), helps the public gain a better understanding of the connection between technological breakthroughs and the revitalization of the upstate New York economy.

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