Teeth may soon be able to function as ears for hearing-impaired persons, thanks to a new device capable of transmitting voice fluctuations through the jaw bone to the inner aural nerves.
Developed by Meng Shengde, a resident of Xi'an, the capital of China's Shaanxi Province, the device will enable the teeth to "hear" sounds emitted by TV sets, CD players, computers, mobile phones and many other audio devices.
"Deafness results from the destruction of the cochlea, which is vital to transmit voice fluctuation to the inner aural nerves. The new device can pass voice fluctuation through the jaw bone to the inner aural nerves," said Meng, 57, a former teacher who spent over 15 years developing the invention.
The apparatus is about 5 centimeters long, the size of a cigarette holder. With one end held between teeth and the other connected to audio devices, the device enables people to "hear."
Meng claims that over 100 hearing-impaired people have tried the device following a local media report in April.
His success has been a long journey, however. Obsessed with electric devices since childhood, Meng quit his job as a teacher in the mid-1980s and set up shops to repair household appliances. In 1987, he quit everything else to devote himself to studying inner sensors for hearing-impaired people.
His obsession plunged the family in to a debt of over 400,000 yuan (US$48,192) and nearly caused his wife to divorce him. She came to understand his passion and used her monthly income of 400 yuan (US$48.19), from sorting sheets in a local newspaper, to support the family.
The family's hard work and sacrifices could change the lives of the over 18 million hearing-impaired persons in China and many more around the world. Scientists in many countries have been working to eliminate the problem, including the much more expensive implantation of artificial cochleae.
Meng recently received a state patent for his invention.
(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2002)