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'SoundBite' Helps Alleviate Single-side Hearing Loss

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

The first in West Michigan to do so, Dr. Stelios Dokianakis of Holland Doctors of Audiology now offers a prosthetic device pandered to those with single-side deafness or conductive hearing loss that allows users to hear by transmitting sound through the teeth.

“This is new and exciting,” Dokianakis told the Holland Sentinel.

Developed by California-based Sonitus Medical Inc., the FDA-approved hearing system became available in fall of 2011. SoundBite is marketed as an alternative to bone-anchored hearing aids, one of the main options for years for hearing loss sufferers.

What is Bone-Anchored Hearing?

Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) conduct sound through the skull bone by securing a microphone onto a surgically implanted titanium fixture behind the ear. However, BAHA is not the best option for all patients. Dokianakis has fit about a dozen patients with SoundBite since offering the mouth-based prothetic.

“These were people who were just kind of waiting for something,” Dokianakis commented to the Holland Sentinel. “They just didn’t want to have a hole drilled in their head and have a screw implanted. Honestly, it surprised me how many patients we had.”

Made of two parts, SoundBite consists of an in-the-mouth hearing device customized to fit around the back teeth and a behind-the-ear microphone that uses bone conduction to transmit sound via the teeth.

A microphone in the ear canal attaches to a transmitter behind the ear through a tube. The microphone captures, processes and sends sound to a small mouthpiece, which snaps onto the teeth like retainer and produces vibrations conducted via the teeth, through bone to both ears.

Why Is Bone-Anchored Hearing So Effective?

SoundBite’s technology works because it doesn’t block the wearer’s good ear and produces a clear sound quality, according to Dr. Adrianne Fazel, an audiologist at Henry Ford Health System in southwestern Michigan, one of the first medical practices in the state to start offering SoundBite to its patients.

Local otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat) Dr. Richard Strabbing has performed BAHA surgeries since 2004. He claims that while he’s excited a new technology has entered the hearing device market, SoundBite is still very new.

“In 1977, the first patient was fitted with a BAHA at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg…SoundBite is new,” Strabbing told the Holland Sentinel. “I have had a couple of patients pursue this, but there is a learning curve with new technology.”

Strabbing also expresses concern that there could be feedback problems if the mouthpiece doesn’t fit well. The device can also get expensive if replacement batteries or mouthpiece remakes are needed, as SoundBite costs around $6,800 if not covered by insurance.

Dokianakis claims that the device’s technology has been in development for about five years and is now mature enough to recommend to patients. SoundBite has brought about life-changing effects in his patients.

“I had this young woman in her early 30s with little kids and her eyes welled up in tears… she started sobbing in my office,” Dokianakis told the Holland Sentinel. “First I thought, ‘Did I do something?’ … Then it dawned on me, no, this woman had just never heard from that side of her head.”

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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