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  • Writer's pictureEarSwitch

EarMetrics® — inclusive health monitoring using standard hearing aids

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Following our successful application to the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge Grant, we wanted to share the roadmap for EarMetrics® with our community. We plan to develop EarMetrics® to medical grade standard for integration with hearing aids, to enable inclusive and non-intrusive health monitoring.

What is EarMetrics®?

EarMetrics® aims to enable the first in-ear wearable device to measure temperature, heart rate, pulse, blood oxygen levels, and continuous blood pressure monitoring. With the backing of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge Grant, and our investors Newable and Britbots, we are exploring, testing and trialling how to integrate EarMetrics® into standard hearing aids.

Why hearing aids?

Over 70% of over 70s have hearing loss in the UK. By augmenting hearing aid technology, doctors, care professionals and hospitals will be able to access a richer stream of medical data using a non-intrusive method which doesn’t involve multiple devices, cuffs or visual physical checks.

This is particularly valuable for some members of the ageing population, who may be reticent to trial new wearable devices but are happy to wear hearing aids or are already wearing them. EarMetrics® will be a discreet integration which doesn't require any behavioural or aesthetic changes for the wearer.

It will enable healthcare providers to monitor personal health data whilst their patients are wearing the device. And empower older people to live healthier more independent lives, giving them new ownership over their health.

Driving inclusive health monitoring

As well as supporting care for the older population, EarMetrics® is driven by inclusion. Standard medical monitoring devices like finger-clip pulse oximeters have been reported to take inaccurate readings for patients with darker skin.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, this inaccuracy could have meant patients with black or brown skin were not offered anti-viral or oxygen treatment for severe COVID infection. EarMetrics® removes this barrier, taking measurements from an unpigmented part of the ear.

What do we mean when we say medical grade?

Medical Grade means reliable, validated and clinically relevant readings reaching regulatory standards. By integrating EarMetrics® into a medical grade hearing aid mould, we expect to meet these criteria.

In essence, ensuring EarMetrics® is medical grade means guaranteeing the technology will always work in medical context. While in-ear wearables like EarMetrics® for fitness monitoring do exist, there are significant issues with the technology.

Some existing technology relies on stable contact of the sensor with the ear canal wall and so may cause discomfort of a sealed ear canal, and interference from the movement of the jaw during chewing and speaking. EarMetrics® will fit seamlessly, mitigating these risks and ensuring accuracy.

How could EarMetrics® support virtual wards?

EarMetrics® could offer reassurance to both patients and clinical staff in virtual wards through continuous monitoring.

With our sensor technology integrated into hearing aids, it will fasttrack virtual ward support, as patients will already be fitted with monitoring technology. Data can be sent directly to electronic health record. It’s important to mention it will be an opt-in service for patients.

Unlike current available technology, EarMetrics® could facilitate pre-emptive action at early signs of illness, and rapid deterioration detection, sending real-time warning signals of changes to vital statistics. 

Why are virtual wards important?

Virtual wards offer health providers the opportunity to safely discharge patients from hospital early or even to avoid patients being admitted to hospital at all, by providing ongoing monitoring.

As well as reducing pressure on NHS hospital beds, virtual wards benefit patients by enabling them to be cared for in the comfort of their own home.

NHS England’s 2022/23 priorities and operational planning guidance asked Integrated Care Systems to deliver virtual ward capacity equivalent to 40 to 50 beds per 100,000 population by December 2023. In total, this is equivalent to 24,000 virtual ward beds.

We are currently awaiting grant confirmation for a trial with Royal United Hospitals in Bath. The trial will be with ITU and respiratory consultants, comparing EarMetrics® with standard pulse oximetry and the gold standard of arterial blood oxygen analysis. It is hoped this trial will demonstrate the medical grade status of our technology.

The future of EarMetrics®

Our vision is for EarMetrics® to contribute to a complete digital phenotype of a patient. Digital phenotyping is the moment-by-moment, beat-to-beat representation of the human phenotype – an individual's biological and physiological condition – using data from personal digital devices. It seeks to exploit the potential of data that are automatically generated by wearables to measure and monitor health.

We see the future of the GP’s office, or the Intensive Care Unit as a streamlined and efficient environment. Free of multiple devices and equipment required to take vital observations. With EarMetrics®, everything is measured from a single wearable in the ear, or in a multi-diagnostic” ear thermometer”, improving time to treatment and enabling early detection.

Talk to us about EarMetrics®

We are looking to speak to Hearing Aid and medical monitoring and diagnosis device manufacturers about EarMetrics® and would welcome the opportunity to work together on realising our vision for the future.

Contact us at:

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