Wearable Tech for early Detection & Prevention of Hearing Damage

Wearable Tech for early Detection & Prevention of Hearing Damage

“The ability to self-monitor will allow earphone manufacturers to provide equipment with a built-in safety feature that will provide significant reassurance to their customers”.
- Thomas Rouse, Lead Consultant, Medical & Healthcare, Plextek

The Challenge

NIHL and tinnitus have traditionally been a problem for those working in noisy environments, such as rock musicians, soldiers or construction workers, but it is also spreading fast among the music-loving younger generation.

Early intervention can be effective in mitigating the worst effects of loud music, but existing technology for testing for NIHL is generally only available in hospitals or specialised clinics.

The Approach

Plextek has developed an innovative wearable demonstrator system for early detection of NIHL, potentially allowing the subject to take immediate remedial action and thereby prevent the condition.

The technology sends auditory stimuli to the ear through standard ‘off-the-shelf’ earphones, then analyses the resulting Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR), producing a fingerprint of the ABR.

Changes in this fingerprint are predictive of the onset of hearing disorders (including ‘hidden’ hearing loss that cannot be detected by standard tests).

The Outcome

No existing technology is currently available to enable the facile detection of such damage before the person develops overt symptoms, such as the characteristic buzzing in the ears that indicates tinnitus.

The company’s solution, when integrated into commonly used in-ear consumer earphones or headphones, will remove the clinical barrier to access and could play a game-changing preventative role in the treatment of NIHL.

In addition to general consumer use, it would particularly benefit those working within high-risk environments such as building sites, the military, or music venues.

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