Alissa Montzka's parents walk on her right side out of habit.
Alissa, 17, is deaf in her left ear, something they discovered when she was 4 and trying to talk to her cousin on the phone.
"She wouldn't respond. We'd ask her, 'Say something Alissa. You know, your cousin is talking to you.' She handed the phone back and said 'My ear doesn't work,'" said Tim Montzka, Alissa's dad.
But now a device called Soundbite has changed that.
"It's pretty weird," said Alissa. "My dad whispered to me from across the room, and I could hear him."
Soundbite is a non-surgical hearing device that's worn in the mouth. It fits like a retainer behind the upper back molars. Experts said a microphone unit worn behind the ear transmits sound from the deaf ear wirelessly to the device worn on the teeth. Sound is then sent through the bone to the inner ear of the good ear.
"Our teeth are a natural conduit because they are attached to our skull, so that vibrates the sound into our skull," said audiologist Kate Puls.
Soundbite is only effective for patients who suffer from single sided deafness or conductive hearing loss. The cost is covered at least in part by some insurance plans.
Patients can eat and drink normally while wearing the device. Alissa said it's comfortable and has even improved her piano playing.
"I can hear the balance better, and I know when I'm playing too loud with my left hand."
And turning her head to hear? That's no longer necessary.
"We're glad this technology came out," said Tim Montzka.
To learn more about Soundbite, click here.
To find a doctor who offers Soundbite, click here.
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