Chew on This for Your Hearing!

36 million adults in the U.S. report some degree of hearing loss, but only one in five people who could benefit from a hearing aid uses one.

A new mouth device could help many hear much better.

Remember how the grown ups in Charlie Brown used to sound?

"wah, wah"

With 80% hearing loss in her right ear this is how Mia Tavan says most people sound to her.

She says, "Wah, wah, wah, wah, like I can tell there's sound, but the inner ear nerves are fried and can't translate sound."

Now she's got a new hearing device on her tooth!  The Soundbite is helping her hearing.

Audiologist Susan Kelleher says, "Through vibrations, uh, the patient hears it in their better ear."

Mia's bad ear is fitted with a microphone that wirelessly transmits sound to a device on her tooth.  Those vibrations travel through her skull bones and are picked up by the inner part of her good ear.

The bone conduction techonology gives her the perception that she can hear in both ears.

Kelleher: "As long as the hearing in the good ear is near normal, patients with bilateral or hearing loss in both ears are not good candidates."

Mia say the Soundbite has improved her quality of life.

Tavan: "Oh it's been amazing.  It's been absolutely amazing."

She tells us the only downsides are getting used to the device, occasional feedback and making sure the batteries are charged.

There are other bone conduction devices on the market, but they require surgery.

The Soundbite does not require any invasive procedures.

It is FDA approved, but it is not covered by all insurance companies at this time.

The device costs about seven thousand dollars.

BACKGROUND:   Hearing loss is rarely sudden, unless you are exposed to an exceptionally loud noise.  Hearing loss happens for many reasons.  Some people lose hearing slowly as they grow older, a condition called presbycusis.  Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but they think it seems to run in families.  Exposure to an excessive amount of loud noise can also be a reason for hearing loss.  This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss.  People in the armed forces, musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, construction workers, and farmers often suffer from this condition.  Loud noises will cause hissing, ringing, or roaring sound in the ears, known as tinnitus.  Also, hearing loss can be caused by bacteria or a virus, head injuries, heart conditions or stroke, tumors, and certain medications.  (Source:

TREATMENT:  Treatment will depend on the specific hearing problem.  Hearing aids are commonly used. They are tiny instruments that are worn in or behind the ear.  They are designed to make things louder.  Personal listening systems help patients hear what they want to hear while eliminating or lowering other noises.  Auditory training systems and loop systems make it easier to hear someone in a crowded room or group setting.  Others, like FM systems and personal amplifiers, are better for one on one conversation.  There are TV listening systems that help the patient listen to the radio and television.  Direct audio input hearing aids can be plugged into TVs, microphones, stereos, auditory trainers, and personal FM systems to help hearing.  There are also telephone amplifying devices, mobile phone amplifying devices, auditorium-type assistive and listening systems.  Cochlear implants can also be used.  (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  For patients who are deaf in one ear, the SoundBite Hearing System is the world's first non-surgical and removable hearing solution to use the principle of bone conduction to transmit sound via the teeth.  Bone conduction is the transmission of imperceptible sound vibrations through the bones to the inner ear.  Many sounds can be heard through bone conduction already; for example, when teeth chatter, scratching the scalp, and crunching on potato chips. The SoundBite is intended to help patients who are basically deaf in one ear to regain spatial hearing ability.  It consists of an ITM (in-the-mouth) hearing device, that is custom made to fit around the upper and back teeth, and a small BTE, (behind-the-ear), microphone unit.  SoundBite is a bone conduction prosthetic hearing device.  Prosthetic hearing devices produce the perception of sound by replacing the function of the middle ear, cochlea, or auditory nerve.  It will allow the sound to travel via the teeth through the bones and to the functioning cochlea, while bypassing the outer and middle ear entirely.  SoundBite detects sound using a microphone that is placed in an open-fit dome within the ear canal of the damaged ear.  Placing the microphone in the ear canal will allow the SoundBite Hearing System to focus on the natural acoustic benefit provided by the patient's outer ear to capture and direct sound.  Once sound is captured by the microphone, it is processed by the BTE digital audio device.  The BTE transmits sound wirelessly to the removable ITM.  The ITM produces sound vibrations that are conducted through the teeth, through bone, and to the cochlea.  (Source:


Susan M. Kelleher, AuD, CCC-A
Boston Medical Center
(617) 638-8124

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