This Fourth of July, Open Wide
I certainly don’t ever want to be told that I am lying through my teeth, but at my age there may come a time when I would not mind hearing through my teeth.
I am sure many have experienced the sensation that when one is crunching on, say a piece of hard candy, one can clearly hear the crunching — sometimes so loud that it overwhelms other sounds.
As we all know, the primary way we hear is through sound waves vibrating the eardrum and subsequently transmitting the vibrations via the middle ear to our inner ear.
But, the second way we hear “is through bone conduction, which happens when sound waves travel through teeth and bone into the inner ear.”
Dr. Brad Stach, the division head of the audiology department at Henry Ford Hospital, says, according to the Sacramento Bee: “In bone conduction, we kind of bypass the outer ear, the floppy part of the outer ear. We bypass the middle ear, and we stimulate the inner ear directly by vibrating the skull and hearing that vibration through the fluids of the inner ear…Your teeth are great conductors of vibration. Once you vibrate your skull, your ear is set up to hear those vibrations.”
Sara McGowen, 34, of Grand Blanc, Mich., discovered exactly this when a team of doctors and technicians at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, Mich., put a hearing aid in her mouth, positioning it on her teeth.
McGowen, who had been deaf in her left ear for more than five years after a tumor was removed on her acoustic nerve, all of a sudden could hear again through that ear.
The hearing aid that doctors put in her mouth is the SoundBite prosthetic device, ”a nonsurgical, removable hearing aid that transmits sound through the patient’s teeth and bone.”
The Sacramento Bee:
The SoundBite system consists of two small devices – one is placed in the mouth and the other is worn on the deaf ear.
The device in the mouth looks like a retainer and fits over teeth. It contains a wireless receiver, a small vibrator and a rechargeable battery that lasts six to nine hours.
The device worn on the deaf ear looks like a tiny hearing aid with a microphone that is placed in the ear canal. This device transmits information to the vibrator on the teeth, which changes the audio sounds into imperceptible vibrations.
The device translates acoustic information to vibratory information and delivers it to the teeth.
The device, invented and developed by Amir Abolfathi of Petaluma, Ca., has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with single-sided deafness. It has also been approved for use by people with conductive hearing loss, a problem that can be caused by chronic middle ear infections.
The Sacramento Bee continues:
Abolfathi, who founded the company that makes the SoundBite system, said that 1.5 million Americans could benefit from this technology.
The product is available now in 35 centers across the United States, Abolfathi said, including at Henry Ford. “Next year,” he said, “we expect to be at 100 centers and then kind of ramp up from there.”
Abolfathi said the device is still in the pilot launch stage. He said several hundred people have been fitted with the device across the country.
The device is not worn during sleep and can be removed so the battery can be charged. No surgery or dental work or modifications to the teeth are required.
So, when you are watching the glorious — safe — fireworks displays this Fourth of July, and when you open your mouth wide to say “Ahh!” keep in mind that you will hear them better, too.
Read more about the SoundBite system here.
And have a great Fourth of July, SoundBite or not.