New innovation turns regular consumer headphones into tinnitus early warning system

tinnitus early warning system

• Device by Plextek proven to detect and alert consumers to the very early warning signs of tinnitus – a condition affecting 300 million people worldwide 

• First-ever consumer headphone integration takes tinnitus testing and prevention out of the clinical environment and makes it accessible to all

Cambridge, UK – 11th April 2017 – A new innovation developed by UK-based engineering and design consultancy Plextek could soon have a far-reaching impact on the early diagnosis and treatment of debilitating hearing conditions such as tinnitus, that currently affects over 300 million people worldwide.

Plextek’s new prototype has been designed for integration within standard everyday consumer headphones and has been proven to reliably detect the early signs of tinnitus – well before a person would become aware of the symptoms. By syncing with a smartphone app the technology could also be used to alert the wearer to a potential problem and encourage them to seek out early medical help or take preventative action.

According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of all hearing issues would be preventable with some form of primary intervention. However, existing technologies used to detect conditions like tinnitus are currently restricted to use within clinical and hospital environments and therefore are only used during intermittent health checks or when patients are already experiencing advanced symptoms.

The integration of Plextek’s solution into commonly used in-ear consumer headphones removes this clinical barrier and can play a game-changing preventative role in the treatment of tinnitus, while also particularly benefitting those within high-risk environments such as loud noise environments, the military or music venues.

Plextek’s solution works by accurately monitoring subtle changes to ‘Auditory Evoked Potentials’ (AEP) – a signal sent from the brain by an acoustical stimulus that measures an individual’s auditory ability level. Using a standard laptop and USB audio card, the tests proved it was possible to record ABR waveforms using in-ear headphones, with the experiments using everyday brands such as Sennheiser and Sony, to successfully demonstrate its mass audience appeal. A video demonstrating its use case can be found here.

Collette Johnson, Director of Medical & Healthcare at Plextek: “For those not within perceived high-risk environments such as the military, the danger of hearing damage is not always immediately obvious. However, our modern lifestyle has meant loud music and noise pollution is commonplace, resulting in a large amount of the population suffering from hearing problems. By placing easily accessible detection technology within consumer products, everyone can constantly self-monitor and act quickly on a condition like tinnitus, that often has life-changing effects on sufferers.”

Tinnitus, often called ‘ringing in the ears’, is the common health condition in which a person can for hear sounds that come from within their body, including buzzing, humming and whistling. While typically not a serious health condition, it can cause stress and insomnia for sufferers and is often difficult to fully cure. Currently, one in ten people suffers from persistent tinnitus within the UK, according to official NHS statistics.

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts / Collette Johnson via email: press@plextek.com or call: 01799 533200

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