Hearing aids have come a long way from the high-pitched screeching devices that our grandmothers may have worn. Modern hearing devices are definitely 21st-century high tech or at least like something Q might have invented for James Bond.
Sonitus Medical has developed the SoundBite, a non-surgical and removable hearing system that uses sophisticated technology to transmit sound using bone conduction. It is believed that this is the first hearing aid to transmit sound via the teeth.
The Cleveland Clinic voted Sonitus Medical's revolutionary hearing device number one on their top 10 list of “Medical Innovations for 2010.”
For those that suffer from the often debilitating single-sided deafness (SSD), or unilateral hearing loss (UHL), in which they are either significantly or entirely deaf in one ear, the SoundBite may be the perfect non-invasive solution.
SSD is a permanent condition with approximately 200 new cases per million people in the world. It causes the sufferer to have difficulty locating the origin of sound and can cause balance problems. Those that suffer from SSD can find it hard to socialize and it can be a dangerous task to simply just cross the road.
The SoundBite comes in two parts: the behind-the-ear (BTE) device and the in-the-mouth (ITM) device. Placed behind the bad ear, the BTW houses the microphone and the wireless transmitter/receiver. The removable ITM is worn over the teeth in the upper left or upper right back of mouth.
Sound is picked up by a small microphone inserted into the ear canal and is connected to the BTE device by a thin, clear tube. Sound is then wirelessly transmitted to the ITM device.
The ITM device contains a flat, rechargeable battery and a small actuator that converts the wireless signals received from the BTE piece, which then travels via the teeth, though the bones to the cochlea (in the inner ear), producing high quality sound and restoring full hearing.
The ITM is custom made for the teeth and uses dental grade acrylic (the same material that makes dentures) to easily mold to the teeth and stay in place.