Epilepsy Talk

An Earbud to Predict Seizures? | October 4, 2020

Imagine a tiny, unobtrusive brain monitor — like an earbud or a hearing aid — that could read brainwaves through the ear.

Amazing as it sounds, this tiny device could help predict seizures and track daily seizures in people with uncontrolled epilepsy, according to a small pilot study.

Engineers at Imperial College in London have developed exactly that.

An EEG device that can be worn inside the ear, like a hearing aid.

They say the device will allow scientists to record EEGs for several days at a time.

This would allow doctors to monitor patients who have regularly recurring seizures.

The device is limited by the fact that it’s best at recording activity from the region it’s attached to, the temporal lobe, but an ear-based EEG has other advantages.

Having a device that fits right in the ear makes it easier to keep the electrodes in the same spot for accurate readings, and reduces the signal noise created by body movement.

The wearer can still hear through it, making it an inconspicuous way to monitor the brain activity of people who have daily seizures.

By nestling the EEG inside the ear, the engineers avoid a lot of signal noise usually introduced by body movement.

And it allows researchers to record EEG data over multiple days, even as patients move around.

They can also ensure that the electrodes are always placed in exactly the same spot which, they say, will make repeated readings more reliable.

“The ideal is to have a very stable recording system, and recordings which are repeatable,” explains co-creator Dr. Danilo Mandic.

“It’s not interfering with your normal life, because there are acoustic vents so people can hear. After a while, they forget they’re having an EEG.”

Also, an Israeli start-up called HeadSense, has developed a pair of earbuds which claims it can monitor pressure inside the human skull.

These earbuds are made of medical-grade EEG sensors to capture brain activity 2,000 times per second and a Bluetooth radio to shoot your thoughts to the smartphone, tablet, or PC of your choice.

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.

And according to HeadSense, the corresponding narrowing of the blood vessels causes the sounds to raise in pitch.

This data is fed wirelessly to the device of your choice which performs the calculations to convert the measurements into a pressure reading.

It all sounds pretty amazing.

And of course, for patients who don’t respond to drugs, it could be a triumph.

But larger trials are needed, before these earbuds become an approved FDA reality.

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  1. This is great news!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Tami — October 4, 2020 @ 2:40 PM

  2. This is wonderful for telemetry and monitoring on a patient. I wonder if it will be helpful for patients if the focus was deeper like the ventricle or other areas of the brain?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Toni Robison — October 4, 2020 @ 2:43 PM

  3. when will this be ready in the USA

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by susan — October 4, 2020 @ 3:21 PM

  4. Too bad an EEG is next to useless for my kind of signals. It’d be fun, though, trying to fit an earbud in with my hearing aids.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by HoDo — October 4, 2020 @ 3:41 PM

  5. Sounds like an impossible dream, HoDo. But at least you’ve got a great sense of humor!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 4, 2020 @ 4:13 PM

    • There are, I have to report, many amusing and ridiculous aspects to having a loose cannon between my ears. My doctors don’t like me making jokes. It’s part of what keeps me sane. The thought of ears packed with devices, a sort of junk yard. Maybe with a junk yard dog, very tiny.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — October 4, 2020 @ 4:59 PM

  6. Oh i wish !

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Bonnie Sutherland — October 4, 2020 @ 4:40 PM

  7. The brilliant idea could be very instrumental to monitor the frequency, timing, scope & duration of the seizures for precise medical records, research & better treatment to cure the seizures.
    But far beyond carrying out EEG tests, it would have been wonderful if the earbuds were made like pace makers regulating heartbeat, transmitting low electrical charges to the brain & abort any impending seizures in progress & rescue the the brain before seizures take over the brain, providing the patient alternative treatment to control the seizures.
    I guess that could be left for the next generations of earbuds.
    Let’s just hope the FDA is going to expedite the progress of the current earbuds for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gerrie — October 4, 2020 @ 7:16 PM

  8. Gerrie, as always, a brilliant idea. And considering the fact that the VNS now has a pacemaker type battery, perhaps the technology isn’t that far away.

    VNS…Exciting News! https://epilepsytalk.com/2015/06/20/vns-exciting-news-2/

    “Since heart rate increases are seen prior to many seizures, the ability to provide stimulation at these times provides a way to respond directly at the time of a seizure.

    AspireSR® expands the use of VNS Therapy to a new responsive type of stimulation.

    According to its creator Cyberonics, this is the first and only VNS Therapy System that provides responsive stimulation to heart-rate increases that are often associated with seizures in people with epilepsy.”


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 4, 2020 @ 8:28 PM

  9. Phylis, I wear a $40 basic smart watch while cycling to monitor my heart rate and oxygen level. However I wear it 24 hours a day. On one occasion since wearing it I had aura at home followed by a moderate simple partial attack. The record showed my heart rate increased from its normal 75 to 125 which is apparently not uncommon during seizures (or strenuous cycling!) I believe that in 20% of cases the rate drops dramatically and can even stop completely for periods often leading to SUDEP.

    Of course this information is not of much use unless transmitted to say a smart phone linked to say an emergency service. Tie that in with the data from an ear bud and it could save lives?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — October 4, 2020 @ 8:57 PM

    • Gosh, fast forward and that could even catch a heart attack, stroke and/or seizure.

      What do you think Gerrie?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 4, 2020 @ 10:05 PM

      • Yes Phylis, That’s exactly excellent strategy to save lives, advanced technology making life a whole lot more conveniently possible to resolve complicated medical hardships, it’s encouraging to see the expectation of ordinary people to seek various solutions to beat the limitations of older technology & drive to more technological breakthrough to connect all the mechanism from monitoring to rescuing patients in immediate need.
        Transmitting the urgent medical data to the rescue crew, GPS can easily locate the patient in emergency need for immediate medical attention, eliminating the delay to save the patient.
        Like Michael pointed out, in fact the technology is available to accomplish the task if the medical industry is willing to invest in the technology connecting the whole process, remotely diagnosing, monitoring & rescuing the patient in emergency medical needs.
        There will come a time when this technology is going to be conveniently available to the general public like ordering pizza without going to the restaurant to feed the belly.
        I may sound too optimistic or ahead of time but technological breakthrough are making radical changes to the old world everyday, I believe the possibilities for Michael’s strategy are practically limitless.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Gerrie — October 5, 2020 @ 5:35 AM

  10. 3 Revolutionary Epilepsy Watches! https://epilepsytalk.com/2018/09/13/3-revolutionary-epilepsy-monitors/

    Do you (very smart guys) think all of this could be integrated into the new smartwatches — especially the one that Apple is working on to regulate blood pressure and heart beat?

    Or do you think EEG monitoring is too specialized and far-fetched?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 5, 2020 @ 9:17 AM

    • I, personally, dislike the thought of Apple or any mega-corporation having any access to my brain at all. I do think that brain wave monitoring via smart devices is possible, soonish.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — October 5, 2020 @ 9:25 AM

      • HoDo, what do you anticipate and what do you think is best?


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 5, 2020 @ 9:48 AM

      • I’m about to invest in new hearing aids. If you go to a manufacturer werbsite like Oticon or Phonak, they have diagrams of the chips with explanations of what’s happening. Phrases like, “work with your brain” are used. I, for instance, can barely hear the sounds F and S. The chip replaces them. So even if you aren’t a nerd, you can see the increasing sophistication of the new technology.

        I know that they can also do vagus nerve stimulation, now, via the ear.

        All of that, with some smart watch elements, say that if seizure detection is a priority, it will be here shortly. My nerdly contacts are such that I can’t use them to anticipate a date.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by HoDo — October 5, 2020 @ 10:56 AM

    • Thanks to the industrial revolution making it possible to invent, mass produce & apply healthcare products to diagnose & treat medical hardships, human race is in a better position to fight formidable odds, extending the life expectancy of mankind for decades from previous generations of human races before.
      Following the same route, upgrading or replacing the old technology with new healthcare products will certainly continue to improve the lives of many generations foreword.
      Just like Michael pointed out, monitoring heart rate with just simple cheap wristwatch & connecting the data to the internet to alert families & medical establishments could certainly simplify & expedite the need for medical assistance when the heart rate crosses beyond the regular boundary lines, saving the lives of many patients in desperate need of immidiate medical assistance.
      Expanding the portable & remote personal technology to cover more medical hardships like the sugar level in diabetes & brain chemistry in epileptics, Alzheimers, dementia,,, can possibly prevent the deterioration of mental functions before it’s too late.
      In any case, technology has been instrumental in improving human lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Gerrie — October 5, 2020 @ 7:30 PM

  11. HoDo thanks. That helps put things in prospective.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 5, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

    • Glad I could help with just limited knowledge. Hearing aid technology is astonishing and growing fast. With my new ones, they will be able to adjust my settings remotely, and that’s just the beginning.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — October 5, 2020 @ 11:19 AM

    • I will miss my old faithful ear trumpet,though.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by HoDo — October 5, 2020 @ 11:20 AM

  12. I wear hearing aids, as well, and they are so sophisticated now, it’s amazing! I have to agree with Hodo, though, that there is something a bit creepy about Apple, etc, having access to my brainwaves!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9 — October 5, 2020 @ 9:03 PM

    • Access isn’t the same as control. Yet it’s close. One suggests the other. The temptation would be there, especially when the recipient is vulnerable. Advertising would be annoying. If the whole device fell into the wrong hands, it’s a plot of a thriller. Do business ethics exist? And so on. I am infected with the widespread malaise of skepticism.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by HoDo — October 6, 2020 @ 9:09 AM

    • While your concern for market oriented corporate empires (Apple) having access to your brain waves is understandable, for far too many more people who’re preoccupied with the need for medical assurances, the benefits of shopping for medical products outweighs the risks for failure to NOT have the devices.
      Therefore, it’s a tough call to make.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Gerrie — October 6, 2020 @ 9:25 AM

      • Consumer Reports might be of help. Or maybe there’s an advertising-free organization just for medical devices.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by HoDo — October 6, 2020 @ 10:36 AM

  13. The malaise of skepticism. An interesting idea, HoDo . It makes sense when describing living with epilepsy; I wonder if: I wonder if this med will work, I’ll have a seizure, I’ll be fired, ostracized, etc, etc. Kinda wears on one after awhile. So yes, Gerrie, new tech is exciting and not to be belittled, there comes a time when we all say so let it happen. Fix us. Now.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by skolly9s — October 6, 2020 @ 7:47 PM

    • Exactly Skolly, The days of putting up with the statues quo expiring like ancient dogma & the limitations of past solutions ending up being stumbling block to satisfy human needs, the search for revolutionary changes in new technology to remedy medical hardships becomes the driving force behind the invention of more medicines & medical technology to help human beings fight the medical hardships.
      As you can see the panic to find injection to stop the spread of COVID19 pandemic, the search for medicine & medical technology will continue to drive the medical industry to keep producing more medical devices to satisfy the ever growing human needs to stop/control medical difficulties human race has come to face.
      The eradication of the new pandemic is going to require the invention of new medicines & medical products.
      Therefore, the search for practical remedy must go on.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Gerrie — October 7, 2020 @ 5:14 AM

  14. “And according to HeadSense, the corresponding narrowing of the blood vessels causes the sounds to raise in pitch.” Question: Would THIS include *Ringing In The Ears, Also? Sometimes, I think some of my “blackouts” *Are SPARKED By This Horriffic, *CONSTANT Sound!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Effie Erhardt — July 21, 2022 @ 11:41 AM

    • “We took a database of ear canal measurements published by the audiology community for hearing aids, and we created an earbud structure with flexible electrodes in an outward flare that creates a gentle pressure so the earbud fits in anyone’s ear. It’s user-generic.” https://neurosciencenews.com/eeg-earbuds-17975/

      “The NextSense biosensing earbuds collect longitudinal EEG data; they are comfortable to wear through the night and at intervals during the day. The NextSense platform is intended to combine EEG data with environmental and behavioral data from smart devices to identify triggers and enable earlier seizure detection.” https://healthtechinsider.com/2021/12/31/earbuds-make-it-easier-to-predict-epilepsy-seizures/

      Effie, I don’t know if this answers your question, but that’s the best my research could find.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 21, 2022 @ 12:19 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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