UK startup EarSwitch has won a UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge Grant to develop its in-ear sensor technology. In partnership with Innovate UK, the grant and matched investments – from Newable Ventures and Britbots – totals over £1m.

The company’s in-ear sensor, called EarMetrics, can measure temperature, heart rate, pulse, and blood oxygen levels. According to the company it can also measure blood pressure.

EarSwitch aims to augment hearing aid technology and tap into a growing hearing aid market. Over 70% of over 70s wear hearing aids and introducing a sensor will allow medical information to be gained with increased accessibility and without intrusion.

Whilst technology uptake might not be as high amongst the elderly as other population cohorts, by harnessing devices patients already regularly use, EarSwitch’s technology could provide healthcare professionals with more consistent health data.

The company has already demonstrated pulse oximetry using its technology and is working with the Health Tech Hub, at the University of the West of England, using a UKRI Biomedical Catalyst grant-funded project.

The funding will go towards incorporation of three sensor types into a hearing aid mould, which will measure heart rate, pulse waveform, breathing rate, central oxygen saturations and a first in-ear demonstration of ‘cuffless’ blood pressure alternatives.

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“Being awarded the UKRI Healthy Ageing Grant will transform our company. I started EarSwitch as a GP with a vision to revolutionise the way people living with neurological conditions interact with the world, through the power of the ear,” said Nick Gompertz, founder of EarSwitch.

The wearable tech market is growing quickly as healthcare becomes ever more virtual. GlobalData predicts the market to be worth $54.4bn in 2023. Whilst smartwatches and fitness trackers account for much of the market, EarSwitch’s goal of tapping into an already extensive market of hearing aids adds to the growing trend of digital healthcare implementation across multiple population demographics.