Allegheny General Hospital Hearing Specialists Introduce First-of-its-kind Therapy for Single-Sided Deafness and Conductive Hearing Loss
Novel System Is Worn in the Mouth, Conducting Sound Via the Teeth
PITTSBURGH, May 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — After experiencing sudden hearing loss in his right ear more than four years ago, Paul Getsy got used to craning his neck to hear better and driving with his window up so he was more likely to hear his passengers speaking.
In December at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), he was fitted with SoundBite, a new hearing system that’s enabled him to pick up most of the sounds he was missing.
“From the very first time I put it in, it was just amazing,” he said. “I describe it as love at first sound.”
SoundBite was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July of 2011 as the first non-surgical therapeutic option for patients who suffer from single-sided deafness or conductive hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem conducting sound waves anywhere along the route through the outer ear, eardrum or middle ear.
Mr. Getsy, 48, suffered sudden sensorineural hearing loss; a frequently one-sided and often uncorrectable hearing loss that occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain.
Traditional hearing aids couldn’t help him.
“Hearing aids amplify sound, but making the sound louder isn’t enough,” said Todd Hillman, MD, co-director of the Hearing and Balance Center at Allegheny General Hospital. “With these types of hearing loss, the brain is unable to comprehend or interpret even loud sounds.”
SoundBite captures sound using a tiny microphone placed within the impaired ear canal. This nearly invisible microphone is attached by a thin tube to a transmitter unit worn behind-the-ear (BTE). The BTE wirelessly transmits sound to a removable in-the-mouth (ITM) hearing device. Custom made for the patient’s own teeth, the ITM translates sound into vibrations that are conducted via the teeth, through bone, to the cochlea.
“SoundBite redirects sound from the affected ear to the cochlea of the functional ear allowing it to pick up on sounds that normally would be out of range,” said Douglas Chen, MD, FACS, co-director of the AGH Hearing and Balance Center.
Results of a multi-center clinical study published in the April 2011 issue of Otology & Neurotology documented improved scores on two hearing tests after a month of daily SoundBite use.
But, how comfortable or practical is a hearing device that’s worn in the mouth?
“It’s sort of like dentures or braces. You know it’s there, but it’s not uncomfortable,” Mr. Getsy said.
SOURCE Allegheny General Hospital