Why is hearing health tracking important? For many people with hearing loss, worry about worsening hearing is all too common an occurrence. Routine appointments with an audiologist can often be up to two years apart, giving ample opportunity for doubt to creep in about deteriorating hearing. If they feel that their hearing is worsening, there is no simple way to check this other than wait for a new audiology appointment.
At Oto Health, we want to change this. We’re building a brand-new product that harnesses recent advances in artificial intelligence research to allow free and easy mobile hearing health tracking.
A routine hearing test is normally performed by an audiologist (a hearing specialist). However, getting an appointment can be a lengthy process which often takes several weeks. The test consists of the measurement of a pure tone audiogram. You sit in a soundproof booth in the audiology department, whilst beeps are played through headphones at different pitches and volumes.
The audiologist works out at what level you can no longer hear the beeps and produces a diagram that shows your hearing ability at all pitches. The diagram shows hearing ability for each ear - often coloured with red and blue dots. This diagram is called an audiogram, and looks like this:
How do people with hearing loss notice their hearing changing? Well, things can change in a number of ways. They may notice that they are struggling to understand conversations as well in noisy environments, or that they are now working a lot harder to communicate than before. A good way to relate to this if you have good hearing is to imagine you are on a video conference call with a bad internet connection – something I’m sure we’ve all experience over the last few months! You have to really concentrate on what is being said, which gets tiring very quickly.
Up until now, there has been no simple way of telling whether your hearing has actually worsened other than booking a new appointment with an audiologist. As previously mentioned, this can take weeks or even months and I’m sure you can imagine can result in prolonged anxiety.
So, how does our product work?
The first thing users will be prompted to do following sign up is answer a number of questions about their hearing health, before taking a smart hearing test using their own headphones. Why smart? Well, Oto uses cutting edge artificial intelligence algorithms to significantly improve the accuracy of this mobile hearing test (more on this in future blogs).
Users will submit answers to a series of questions on a regular basis (on average once per week) that informs Oto if and how the user’s hearing is changing. It’s that simple. Artificial intelligence is used to monitor these reference points and if any worsening is detected, a new smart hearing test is triggered. If the smart hearing test demonstrates actual deterioration, then a follow up appointment will be recommended with their audiologist.
Oto provides a free, simple way for people with hearing loss and tinnitus to track their hearing health.
Worsening hearing is a common worry for people with hearing loss. At present there is no easy way to track changes and monitor hearing health over time. We believe that Oto will change that.
In our next post we’ll be talking about the treatment offered in Oto, and how we believe it could revolutionise the way therapy is delivered for people with tinnitus and hearing loss.