Hearing device in mouth helps deaf patients

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A new hearing device that conducts sound through teeth could help patients who are deaf in one ear.

SoundBite is the name of this new discreet non-surgical hearing device.  It fits like a retainer behind the upper back molars.

"Our teeth are a natural conduit because they are attached to our skull so that vibrates the sound into our skull," said audiologist Kate Puls.

A behind-the-ear microphone unit transmits sound from inside the deaf ear wirelessly to the device worn on the teeth. Sound is then sent through the bone to the inner ear of the good ear.

"It's pretty weird. Like my dad whispered to me from across the room and I could hear him," said Alissa Montzka, who wears the device.

She says SoundBite is comfortable.  Wearing it she can locate sounds better.  She also hears a difference playing piano.

"I can hear the bass clef better. It sounds different so I can hear the balance better, and I know when I'm playing too loud with my left hand," said Montzka.

SoundBite costs $6,800.  Insurers generally do not cover traditional hearing aids, but a few have covered SoundBite as a prosthetic device.

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