Teeth could soon function as ears for hearing-impaired people if they use a new device unveiled by a Chinese amateur inventor, state media reported on Wednesday.

Developed over 15 years by former teacher Meng Shengde, the contraption allows teeth to “hear” sounds from things like TV sets, stereos and mobile phones by transmitting sound waves through the jaw bone to the inner aural nerves, Xinhua news agency reported.

The five-centimetre (two-inch) long apparatus is clamped between the teeth and then plugged into an audio device, the report said.

Meng, a 57-year-old from Xian, the capital of north China’s Shaanxi Province, reportedly claims that more than 100 hearing-impaired people have successfully tried the device.

If the invention takes off, it will be sweet vindication for Meng, who has worked full-time on it since 1987.

“His obsession plunged the family into a debt of over 400 000 yuan (48 000 dollars) and nearly caused his wife to divorce him,” Xinhua said, adding that Meng’s wife now understood his obsession and was supporting the family.