Every day our knowledge about the human body and how it functions as a complete and interconnected system rapidly grows. Experts are quickly realizing that symptoms and conditions once thought to be isolated are in fact often connected to other systems and underlying conditions. This is also true of hearing loss.
In recent years, hearing loss has been linked to depression, dementia, and even heart health. Experts have come to believe that a strong and healthy cardiovascular system is connected to healthy hearing. With the latest wearable technology coming out, researchers are considering how it may enhance hearable technology such as hearing aids to ensure that both of these systems are working properly and issues are diagnosed early.
In a study published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, researchers at the Imperial College of London outlined how their ear-worn sensor designed to monitor heart, brain, and lung function could “open up a range of new possibilities in the identification and management of heart conditions.” These are the same types of heart conditions that are now being linked to hearing health.
According to the report, the device senses the dilation and constriction of blood vessels in the ear canal using the mechanical component of the electromechanical sensor. The electrode portion of the sensor detects a “clinically valid” electrocardiogram (ECG).
“This is the latest piece of research on what we think could be a versatile new piece of wearable technology. We’ve now completed a number of tests on our sensor that focused on detecting vital signs within the body. Our early results are proving interesting and, although we are still a way off from seeing it used outside of experiments, we have many exciting avenues to explore.” –Danilo Mandic, Ph.D., lead study author.
The hope for this wearable technology is that it will make longer-term monitoring of vitals easier for both patients and their physicians. This monitoring, in turn, could help make the early identification of heart risk even easier to reduce the risk of associated conditions such as hearing loss.
Many audiology experts such as Charles E. Bishop, AuD, Assistant Professor in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences, are seeing the importance of health care providers working together to treat the whole patient for just this reason. “Hearing health should not be assessed in a vacuum,” says Bishop.“There is simply too much evidence that hearing loss is related to cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. It’s time we maximized the information we have in order to benefit the individual’s overall well-being.”
With this new wearable technology designed to monitor key vital signs now in the works, the world is watching closely and imagining the possibilities for the future. Could our hearing aids one day not only help us better hear the conversation and our favorite television shows but also alert our physicians to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular health markers?
Researchers and hearing healthcare professionals alike see great possibilities in the future of this technology. For now, get regular physicals to monitor your overall health and hearing evaluations to monitor your hearing health. Keep all of your providers in the loop to ensure nothing is being missed when it comes to your health.