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Father-Son Alumni Beat the Sound of Silence

Hearing Device Named by Time Magazine as one of the ‘Best Inventions of 2020’

Ketan and Ronak Muni
Ketan Muni ’87, left, and his son, Ronak Muni ’19

12/23/2020
Edwin L. Aguirre

In the U.S., about 34 million people suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss, and about 10 million of them have to use hearing aids, according to Ketan Muni ’87. 

“Hearing loss is more common as we age, and it is accelerated by exposure to excessively loud sounds,” says Muni, senior director of research and development at Earlens Corporation, a privately held medical technology company based in Menlo Park, California.

He and his son, Ronak Muni ’19, who works for Earlens as R&D engineer and strategic marketing specialist, are part of the team that developed an innovative hearing device, which was recently recognized by Time magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of 2020.”

“We are both proud UML alumni who are fortunate to work on this game-changing technology that was recognized by Time magazine,” says Ketan. “It is also a recognition for UMass Lowell.”

Good Vibrations

“The Earlens device is the world’s first and only custom implanted hearing solution designed to directly vibrate the eardrum,” says Ketan.
Earlens hearing device Photo by Earlens Corp.
The Earlens device features an ear tip transmitter connected to a behind-the-ear processor and a custom, motor-driven lens receiver that sits on the patient’s eardrum.

Unlike most hearing aids that use an amplifier and speaker to boost sound, Earlens uses a tiny lens that sits on the eardrum. A microphone inside the device’s behind-the-ear processor picks up sounds, which are converted into vibrations that are transmitted to the eardrum. 

“This replicates natural hearing and allows for full frequency bandwidth with no distortion in quality,” says Ketan. “Implanting the device doesn’t require surgery or anesthesia – it can be done in a physician’s office or hearing clinic.”

Ketan earned a Ph.D. in polymer science/plastics engineering from UMass Lowell in 1987. He has more than 30 years of experience in the field of medical devices and has more than 100 patents. 

Ronak, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UML in 2019, followed his father’s career in medical devices. He has been with Earlens for almost a year, helping to develop ear lenses from concept to commercialization and managing survey data of patients for investors.

Both father and son credit UMass Lowell for providing them with the self-confidence, practical knowledge and problem-solving skills needed to compete with peers.

“UMass Lowell has a very strong academic program coupled with professors who are focused on the students’ hands-on learning and exposure to industry,” says Ketan. 

“It has a great alumni network that allows students to get internships and jobs at both startups and big companies,” says Ronak. “UML alumni and professors, the dean, the Career & Co-op Center and others help students with career counseling and résumé writing, and provide job leads and connections with hiring managers. The university provides a great head start and a quick transition to industry.”