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Innovation & Startups

Allegheny General Hospital doctors restore severe hearing loss with a little help from...teeth?

Allegheny General Hospital doctors are successfully restoring hearing loss for patients, without surgery, using a new technology that works through the teeth.   
SoundBite, made by California-based Sonitus Medical, is basically three tiny devices that work in tandem to provide a high quality of hearing to those who suffer from a severe hearing loss in one ear. 
A tiny, removeable microphone is placed within the ear canal of the impaired ear. The microphone captures and directs sound through a small behind the ear transmitter unit to a removeable in-the-mouth (ITM) hearing device. 
Basically your good ear is hearing sounds from the side of your bad ear via the conductivity of your teeth, explains Dr. Todd Hillman, co-director of the hearing and balance center at Allegheny General Hospital. For one-ear listeners, it offers a more normal lifestyle and better hearing without the constant head turning. 
While hearing aids are less expensive, they do not work for everyone, says Hillman. SoundBite is most effective for patients who have suffered from a sudden sensorineural hearing loss. It's comfortable and, despite what you might think, does not amplify the sound of food being chewed.
SoundBite was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July of 2011.
“From the very first time I put it in, it was just amazing,” said Paul Getsy, 48, of Plum, the first AGH patient to receive the system. “It’s sort of like dentures or braces. You know it’s there, but it’s not uncomfortable.”
While Getsy tried a surgical treatment using steroids, one of the few known treatments for sudden deafness, it wasn't effective. SoundBite is picking up the sounds he has been missing, he says.  
“I came home after I got it and tried a cookie and thought ‘What did I get myself in to?’ But, now, I rarely take it out for a meal,” he says.  
Results of a multi-center clinical study of patients wearing the device published in the April 2011 issue of Otology & Neurotology documented improved scores on two types of hearing tests after 30-days of daily use of the SoundBite system.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dr. Todd Hillman, AGH
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