A prototype sensor could turn any headphones into a tinnitus detection system

A British tech and design firm has created what it claims could be a “game changer” in the prevention of tinnitus – a hearing analysis application that can be built right into earphones and headphones.

Plextek has developed a prototype that can be built into any and all consumer headphones, the company says, and is designed to scan a user’s hearing daily, creating a fingerprint of their hearing ability and alerting them via a connected smartphone app if there are any subtle changes.

These changes can be the first signs of tinnitus, which tend to occur before a person would become aware of any symptoms.

The prototype monitors changes to what’s known as the Auditory Evoked Potentials (AEP), a signal which is sent from the brain by an acoustical stimulus that measures a person’s hearing abilities.

Plextek’s head of medical Collette Johnson said the ability to self-monitor could help change lives.

“For those not within perceived high-risk environments such as the military, the danger of hearing damage is not always immediately obvious,” she said.

“However, our modern lifestyle has meant loud music and noise pollution is commonplace, resulting in a large amount of the population suffering with hearing problems.

“By placing easily accessible detection technology within consumer products, everyone can constantly self-monitor and act quickly on a condition like tinnitus, that often has life-changing effects on sufferers.”

According to figures from the NHS, more than 600,000 people in the UK suffer from a severe form of tinnitus that affects their quality of life.