By now, we should all be aware of the impact wearable technology has had on physical fitness. Activity trackers like the Nike FuelBand, FitBit Flex and Jawbone Up have revolutionized the way we workout, but wearables can do a lot more than make sure we’re burning enough calories. They can improve our hearing, restore our vision and keep our hearts ticking longer than ever before. And the best part is, these innovations are just beginning.
There used to be two options for people with hearing problems, invasive and expensive surgery or unwieldy hearing aids. Now, thanks to technological medical advances, the hearing-impaired have better ways to cope. One product in particular, the Sonitus SoundBite Hearing System, is set to have a huge impact on our eardrums.
The SoundBite uses bone conduction and wireless sound processing technology to help people with conductive hearing loss regain the ability to hear by transmitting audio waves through their mouth. That’s right, an unobtrusive microphone sits in the patient’s deaf ear, while a custom-made transmitter sends signals from the patient’s molars.
The mouthpiece enables wearers to hear by creating vibrations that are felt in the cochleae of both ears, bypassing the outer and middle ear altogether. While bone conduction isn’t a new method for treating the hearing impaired, the SoundBite is the first option that doesn’t involve surgery, making it a less costly and safer alternative.
Moving from the ears to the eyes, the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis gives limited sight to the visually impaired. Although the Argus II doesn’t address all causes of blindness or restore full sight to patients, the device can slow down the effects of degenerative eye diseases.
The Argus II works through a pair of glasses with a built-in camera that transmits external data to a device implanted in user’s optic nerve. Again, the Argus II doesn’t give the wearer 20/20 vision, but it does give them the ability to see shapes and detect their surroundings far better than a walking stick.
As far as internal medicine is concerned, Proteus Digital Health received FDA approval last year for its digital pill, which helps track how patients respond to medication. The system consists of an ingestible sensor, a patch worn on the body and an app installed on a smartphone or tablet.
According to an article in GigaOm, when the patient swallows the sensor along with medication, the magnesium and copper in the sensor react with the acid in the patient’s stomach to create a small electrical charge, allowing the sensor to communicate with the patch and app. The patient can track and log his medication and share the information with healthcare providers.
The BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System (RMS) from Preventice is a wearable body sensor that allows physicians to remotely monitor a patient’s physiological data. A small sensor is attached to the patient’s chest to track heart rate, respiration rate and activity level, giving physicians and healthcare providers access to patient information with just a few clicks.
With many of these devices only in their first iteration, it’s exciting to think about what the future has in store. The SoundBite may shrink down to the size of a pesky broccoli floret stuck in your teeth. The Argus II could be the world’s most advanced contact lens. Protus pills could aid in cancer detection. And the BodyGuardian could keep track of your vital signs while adhering to the skin like a temporary tattoo. Who knows? The only thing we can say for sure is that mobile health is proving to be a real lifesaver.