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By Debbie Gregory.

Back in 2010, a company called Sonitus Technologies introduced a novel hearing aid called the SoundBite. The system consisted of a behind-the-ear microphone with a custom made clip for inside the mouth that sent tiny vibrations to the inner ear, which were then translated into sounds. Now the latest communication aid from the company has attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense, which has awarded Sonitus a roughly $10 million contract to develop a wireless two-way comms system that clips to a user’s back teeth.

Officially called the ATAC system but dubbed the Molar Mic, the small device clips to the user’s back teeth. The device is both microphone and speaker. Incoming sound is transmitted through the wearer’s bone matter in the jaw and skull to the auditory nerves; outgoing sound is sent to a radio transmitter on the neck, and sent to another radio unit that can be concealed on the operator. From there, the signal can be sent anywhere.

The mic removes the need for headsets and other equipment that could get fouled up, allowing users to continue communicating during dangerous or active situations, such as parachuting out of an airplane, working near noisy helicopters, swimming in open water, or during rescue missions or firefights. Because it is hidden in the mouth, it can also be used discreetly by security personnel or undercover agents.

“Essentially, what you are doing is receiving the same type of auditory information that you receive from your ear, except that you are using a new auditory pathway — through your tooth, through your cranial bones — to that auditory nerve,” said Peter Hadrovic, CEO of Molar Mic creator Sonitus Technologies. “You can hear through your head as if you were hearing through your ear,”

Communicating via the teeth takes a little getting used to, but your ability to understand conversations transmitted through bone improves with practice.

“Over the period of three weeks, your brain adapts and it enhances your ability to process the audio,” said Hadrovic. But even “out of the gate, you can understand it,” he said. (more below)

Sonitus says it will not begin work on commercial versions of the Molar Mic until it finishes it military contract, meaning it will be a few years before we get to listen accept calls directly through our skull bones.