Hearing through teeth with new device for single-sided deaf people


Infection, tumors or trauma can cause single-sided deafness. It makes it difficult to communicate. A new device called a SoundBite allows hearing through teeth.

"The majority of people who have hearing loss in one ear, they're deaf in one ear, the vast majority have no treatment now in the United States. None. And treatments are available," said Dr. Jennifer Derebery, The House Clinic. Derebery is an investigator for the company that created the SoundBite.

"With the SoundBite you have a very small behind-the-ear hearing aid. And then you have a second piece that's on the tooth, removable and invisible," said Derebery.

The challenge in single-sided deafness is to find a way to transmit sound from the deaf side to the hearing side. The SoundBite is different from a hearing aid, which simply amplifies sound. The tooth piece sends a vibration to an earpiece that feeds the cochlea of the healthy ear.

"It takes a tiny vibration in order to have sound be transmitted, and you really don't feel it on the tooth. You really don't," said Derebery.

The SoundBite can't be used in people with certain dental conditions. It's FDA-approved for patients 18 and older with normal hearing in one ear. Patients can eat and drink with it.

Derebery says insurance companies are just starting to cover the $6,800 device.

SoundBite is being offered in at least 17 centers across the U.S., including the House Clinic in L.A.

Other treatments that can help restore the sensation of hearing to the deaf side include a bone-anchored device surgically attached to the bone behind the ear. Also, there's the CROS Hearing Aid, which involves wearing hearing instruments in both ears.

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