One of the most exciting benefits of wearables isn’t tracking fitness goals or giving you some smartphone functions on your wrist, but helping those with reduced mobility or senses to live more of a normal life. Soundbite is a wearable that falls into that latter category, giving those with reduced hearing a chance to have the same auditory experience as everyone else, by utilising bone conductivity.
While most hearing aids transmit sound through the ear, Soundbite goes in an entirely different direction and targets the mouth as a prime place to send sound through. That might sound a little off the wall, and it is certainly a unique way of dealing with the problem of hearing loss, but bone conductivity is actually the method of activation. If you’ve used an underwater MP3 player you might already be aware of this sort of technology, but it essentially transmits the audio through bone itself – in this case, your teeth and jaw.
Mixing up contemporary wireless technnology, with traditional techniques for bone conduction, the Soundbite allows for the world’s first, non-surgical and removable bone conduction hearing system. A behind the ear microphone is still required, so it’s not an entirely invisible wearable (though not far off), but it’s important to locate it there since it allows for the most natural of sound amplification.
When sound is captured by the microphone, it’s wirelessly sent to the hearing device in the mouth – which is custom built and fitted to the patient’s teeth – which then uses imperceptible vibrations to transmit the noise to both cochlea, allowing for normalised hearing even if one is almost entirely deaf.
Unlike a lot of hearing aide devices, the Soundbite brings together science from different disciplines – dental, auditory and audiology – to create a unique wearable to address a unique problem.
Unfortunately this isn’t a product you can buy yourself. It is available through select physicians, but only in the US and you’ll need to be recommended by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor first.
Availability is obviously an issue with a wearable like this and potentially cost as well. Unless a person has quite comprehensive insurance, getting something experimental like this covered is not going to be easy.
The Soundbite has a lot of potential to change the lives of those living with partial deafness, but it’s going to be need to become much more readily available for it to ever see a decent uptake.