The advances in new wearable fitness trackers open up a world of possibilities in healthcare. I strongly feel that the fitness tracking technology is the next big thing in the world of electronic gadgets and will provide much more integration with other gadgets around in near future. Some hearing aids can already, seamlessly connect with the smart watches. Cost if obviously a factor for utilisation but Xiomi has come up with a cheap wearable technology that can potentially have at least the following two uses in audiology in its current form:
People with significant hearing loss using it to acknowledge the alarm, incoming call ring etc with the wearable vibrating on the wrist. It is so light and so waterproof that you can use it in night and shower too. So, when you take your aids off- it is your next best ally.
Tinnitus patient can be given these watches to monitor sleep and sleep hygiene regime (if it is working)
Xiomi, the Chinese tech company established in April 2010 is world’s fourth largest smartphone seller with over 60 million handset sales in the first year of its conception. By end of December 2014, Xiomi was acknowledged at world’s most valuable start-up with a valuation close to £50 billion. Apart from smartphone, Xiomi came up with the idea of wearable fitness tracker-mi-band in August 2014. With a coveted price tag of $13 per piece, the fitness band is quite a useful tool.
Not only it acts as pedometer and can save your fitness data (distance travelled and steps taken during the time of wearing it), it also syncs with an app on android and Apple smartphones to give you an enhanced functioning that might be particularly relevant in hearing healthcare. With 13gm of net weight the tracker is light enough to be used all day and night (I have been wearing it continuously for three days so far), and can serve the function of vibration with alarms and when a call is received. People with hearing impairment, who struggle to hear calls and alarms-can easily perceive the vibrations. I found it quite useful in noisy places where the noise does not let me hear the incoming call tone. Also, it is not always possible to perceive the vibration of the phone (particularly when the phone is in the pocket of a fairly loose trousers or track pants). Furthermore, imagine how a hearing aid can utilise this gadget in shower (IP rating 67), where they have to take hearing aids out to miss the incoming calls from the phone.
Now that the price is significantly lower than other competing device, it can be easily acquired by most people on hearing aids. I believe that there is a case for the state health sector to think about offering this device as an optional accessory to people with significant hearing impairment who own a smartphone.
The next step in the technology is even more exciting. Xiomi has just launched a pre-sale for its Mi Band 1S, which can track the heart rate and sleep pattern and is price tagged under $20. The gadget is supposed to tell the wearer about their quality of sleep, showing how much you have been sleeping and if the sleep was of good enough quality. I feel that there is a great potential for this device to be used in tinnitus care in audiology clinics where the sleep pattern disturbance is of particular concern. The device can possibly be given to the clients to monitor the success of sleep hygiene regime provided by the tinnitus therapist. I am hoping that I can do this for a few of my clients and run some publishable data as a consequence. I have, indeed, ordered a couple of these new gadgets to try on and see how they can be utilised in the clinics.
Watch this space for further information.