Justin Ely was born without hearing in his left ear.
Now, for the first time in 40 years, his reality has changed.
"I was at the Final Four, and this person was asking me questions to my left and it was really nice not to have to strain to hear them or have to turn my head or keep repeating 'what?' repeatedly," Ely said.
Ely wears a device that is one part retainer and one part earpiece.
It's a relatively new technology appropriately named Sound Bite, and it can help people like Ely with single-sided deafness hear again.
"In the past, the best option for those individuals was either a hearing aid that crossed the sound over to the good ear or a surgical implant called the BAHA, and those are great and we still do those. It's called a bone-anchored hearing aid, but it is surgery," said Dr. Elizabeth Welch with Hearing Services of Franklin.
With this option, there's no surgery. In their bad ear, the person wears a tiny ear piece that picks up sounds. Those sounds are sent to a retainer the person is also wearing on their back teeth. That retainer then sends those sounds to the working inner ear, allowing the person to hear.
Ely has only had the device for a few months and it's already making a big difference.
"Sounds become much sharper, much cleaner, it's pretty amazing all the little details you can hear that maybe I didn't notice before or just, you know, only being able to hear on one side," Ely said.
Doctors work with a dentist to get the mold of the teeth and make sure it fits just right. That way, patients can talk and eat while wearing both the retainer and ear piece.
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