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Tooth Mounted Hearing Aid

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Tooth Mounted Hearing Aid

New hearing aid can help SSD patients regain stereo sound…

Sonitus Medical of San Mateo in California has created new type of hearing aid for single-sided deafness (SSD), that picks up sound through vibrations in the teeth.

This new device wraps around the teeth. It picks up the sounds detected from a tiny microphone in the deaf ear and transforms them into vibrations. These then travel through the teeth and down the jawbone to the cochlea in the working ear, where they are transmitted to the brain providing stereo sound.

Single-sided deafness (SSD) affects around 9 million people in the US, and makes it difficult for them to pinpoint the exact source of sounds. This can make crossing roads extremely hazardous, and also makes it hard to hear conversations in noisy rooms.

tooth mounted hearing aid ssd Tooth Mounted Hearing AidThe same process of “bone conduction” explains how we hear our own voices, and why they sound different when they are recorded and played back to us.

Enhancing sound through vibrations in the teeth is not a new concept. Beethoven is said to have overcome his deafness by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it between his teeth, enabling the musical vibrations to travel through his jawbone to his inner ear.

There are also a number of existing hearing aids that use bone conduction to transmit sounds, but these require a titanium post to be drilled into the skull, or reply on bulky headsets. The new device also differs from conventional hearing aids, which employ air conduction to simply turn up the volume of sound traveling into the ear.

Sonitus is currently testing the device in people with SSD. So far, tests have shown that the device is comfortable, doesn’t damage the teeth and helps improve speech intelligibility in noisy surroundings.

The firm say that they may start testing the device in people with other forms of deafness and at least one functioning cochlea.

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio voted Sonitus’s device its top medical innovation for 2010. The company plans to submit its results to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval in early 2010, and if all goes to plan, the device should become available later in the year.


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