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OU Medicine Offers New Hearing System for Patients with Single-Sided Deafness

Thursday, December 05, 2013 - Campus News - Contact Theresa Green, (405) 833-9824

Using your teeth to hear? It sounds a little crazy, but new technology now available at OU Medicine is helping patients with single-sided deafness hear again. 

It's called the SoundBite™ Hearing System. It is the world's first removable, non-surgical hearing solution that uses the well-established principle of bone conduction along with advanced wireless and sound-processing technology to transmit sound via the teeth to the inner ear. 

"Bone conduction has long been recognized as one of the most effective methods of bringing sound to patients with hearing loss in one ear. With the SoundBite System, we can custom-fit patients with a non-invasive, high-tech solution without surgery, without need for a permanent implant," said Dr. Betty Tsai, board-certified otolaryngologist with OU Physicians. "It's not a hearing aid. A hearing aid simply amplifies sound. SoundBite is a prosthetic hearing system. It replaces the function of the damaged hearing nerve."

Sound waves travel through air to our inner ears, but they can also arrive via bone. For instance, familiar sounds like scratching your scalp, crunching potato chips or chattering your teeth are transmitted to the inner ear through bone conduction. SoundBite takes advantage of a person's natural teeth structures as the bone conductor to transfer sound vibrations to the cochlea of the inner ear thereby restoring hearing to the impaired ear.

An estimated 50,000 people in the United States experience unilateral hearing loss each year, typically caused by viral infections, Menieres disease, head or ear trauma or through surgical intervention to remove acoustic neuruomas or other brain tumors.

Dustin Brown, 27, of Meeker underwent surgery to remove a tumor, leaving him deaf in one ear. Now, thanks to SoundBite, his hearing has been restored. 

"That's awesome," Brown exclaimed shortly after being fitted with SoundBite as the technician whispered in his previously impaired ear.

Unlike bone-anchored hearing aids that use a surgical implant on the skull, the SoundBite system consists of two user-friendly components. The first is an easy-to-insert, easy-to-remove, In-The-Mouth hearing device that's custom made to fit around the upper left or right back molar teeth. The other component is a small, Behind-The-Ear microphone unit that tucks behind and inside the impaired ear. Both components have rechargeable batteries and the system comes with its own charger. 

SoundBite is barely visible when worn. It requires no dental work or modifications to the teeth. 

"SoundBite represents a great new option for patients with single-sided deafness," said Angela Gathers, CCC-A,OU Physicians audiologist. "The entire process takes only a few weeks – from start to finish."

SoundBite is FDA-approved for the treatment of single-sided deafness. It is appropriate for patients 18 years or older who suffer from moderately severe, severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss in one ear and have normal hearing in the other ear. It is intended for patients with sound oral health and tooth structures. 

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