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VR Interfaces: SoundBite: Dental Hearing Aid


Overview of SoundBite: Dental Hearing Aid
One of the fun aspects of using prosthetics to replace or repair sensory issues rather than locomotive, is that the prosthesis don't always have to fit in the same place as the original. Such is the case with Sonitus Medical's mouth-implanted artificial ear.

The SoundBite Hearing System uses bone conduction from the upper jaw to the inner ear to deliver it's auditory sensing capability. It is not much bigger than a tooth itself, and consists of two pieces, one of which fits behind the ear, the other of which fits into the mouth. In the former case, the implant contains a wireless receiver, and a tiny speaker that attaches to rear teeth to resonate and transmit the audio mechanically to the cochleae.

The part that fits behind the ear, of course has inbuilt a microphone and wireless transmitter. A near-invisible wire, the width of a human hair separates the microphone and the rest of the unit, so that the microphone can be embedded inside the pinna if required, capitalising on the shape of the pinna to focus sound waves.

This part picks up the audio signals, transmits them to the unit in the mouth which then oscillates the teeth to conduct the sound frequencies to the cochlea directly, bypassing the natural ear's own conversion process.

If required, the mouth-implant can simply be unclipped from the teeth it is pressed against, and removed, as it is not implanted permanently. Thus if something happens to a tooth, the device can be moved to another. It is not believed at this time that the oscillation is sufficient to damage teeth or work them loose.

Essentially, SoundBite is intended to provide clear, high fidelity sound and thus restore normal hearing to patients who are essentially deaf in one ear with no surgery or modifications to the teeth required. If it pans out, this system may well be worth investigating to use to transmit virtual sounds straight from the VR to the teeth, bypassing the need for speakers or headphones as an audio interface device.

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