Earbuds could provide sound alternative to holes in the head
July 10, 2013
An Israeli startup called HeadSense has developed a pair of earbuds which it claims can monitor pressure inside the human skull. It hopes its product could negate invasive alternatives, which involve drilling a hole in the skull (a process known as trepanning) and inserting a catheter to monitor intracranial pressure (ICP).
Because invasive procedures are expensive and involve a degree of risk, they are used only in more severe cases, including following serious brain injury. However, there will inevitably be fringe cases where measuring ICP would be advantageous and that are not currently deemed serious enough to warrant invasive monitoring.
HeadSense's earbuds work by emitting low-frequency sounds and monitoring changes in the sound waves as they pass through the brain. Increased pressure causes blood flow in the brain to decrease. According to HeadSense, the corresponding narrowing of the blood vessels causes the sounds to raise in pitch. The data is fed wirelessly to a tablet which performs the calculations to convert the measurements into a pressure reading.
The company has attracted investment from a number of companies, including GE. HeadSense's CEO Guy Weinberg says the investment will be used to gain approval for the product ahead of launch.
These earbuds are not the only non-invasive alternative to monitoring ICP that has been sought. Transcranial Doppler tests which measure the rate of blood flow in the brain, ultrasound, EEG and MRI are among other methods that have been tested, though all have been founding wanting for this particular application.
It'll be interesting to see whether HeadSense's earbuds are passed for clinical use.