MONDAY, Feb. 12, 2024 (HealthDay News) — A new pair of earrings join the long list of wearable technologies that could help monitor health, researchers report.
The thermal earrings continuously monitor the temperature of the wearer’s earlobes, according to University of Washington (UW) researchers who developed the earrings.
The earrings performed better than smartwatches at detecting skin temperature during rest periods, according to a small study of six users.
Researchers say the readings could help users monitor signs of illness, stress, diet, exercise and ovulation.
“I use smartwatches to track my personal health, but I’ve found that many people think smartwatches are unstylish or bulky and uncomfortable,” said co-lead author Qiuyue Xue, a doctoral student at Paul G. Allen University. Seattle School of Computer Science and Engineering.
Researchers say the smart earring prototype is similar in size and weight to a small clip and has a battery life of 28 days.
A magnetic clip holds the temperature sensor to the user’s ear, while another sensor hangs about an inch below to estimate ambient temperature.
Researchers say earrings can be decorated with stylish designs made of resin or gemstones without compromising their accuracy.
“We found that detecting skin temperature on the lung lobe is much more accurate than detecting skin temperature on the hand or wrist,” Xue said in a university news release. “It also gave us the option of hanging parts of the sensor to compare ambient temperature with Skin temperature separates.”
Researchers say it’s an engineering challenge to create a wearable device that’s small enough to be an earring but strong enough to typically not require charging.
“Generally, if you want power to last longer, you have to have a bigger battery. But then you sacrifice size. Going wireless also requires more power,” said co-lead author Yujia (Nancy) Liu. He conducted the research while working on his master’s degree at the University of Washington and is currently at the University of California, San Diego.
The team found a way to place a Bluetooth chip, battery, two temperature sensors and antennas on the earrings by adapting the way they connect to devices to transmit data.
Rather than pairing directly with a device, the earrings use Bluetooth advertising mode: a stream used to show that Bluetooth devices are available for pairing.
After reading a person’s body temperature and transmitting the data, the earrings enter a deep sleep to save energy.
The researchers also explored the usefulness of earlobe temperatures in guiding medical and research efforts.
A study of five patients with fever found that the average earlobe temperature increased by nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit compared with the body temperatures of 20 healthy patients, showing the earrings’ potential to control fever.
“In medicine, we often monitor fevers to assess response to treatment, for example, to see if antibiotics are working on an infection,” said co-author Dr. Mastafa Springston, clinical instructor of emergency medicine at the University of Washington. drug. “Long-term monitoring is one way to increase sensitivity to fevers, which can wax and wane throughout the day.”
Earlobe temperature also tends to change more than core body temperature. In tests, the earrings successfully detected temperature changes associated with diet, exercise, stress and ovulation, the researchers said.
“Current wearable devices, such as Apple Watch and Fitbit, have temperature sensors, but they can only provide the average temperature for the day, and their wrist and hand temperature readings are too noisy to track ovulation,” Xue said. “So we wanted to explore unique applications for this earring, particularly ones that would appeal to women and anyone who cares about fashion.”
Next, the researchers plan to train the earring’s algorithm to better suit each potential use and conduct more extensive testing.
Future iterations may also include heart rate and activity monitoring, Xue said. These devices can be powered by solar energy or kinetic energy generated by the swing of the earrings.
“Ultimately, I would like to develop a set of health-monitoring jewelry,” Xue said. “The earrings can detect activity and health indicators such as temperature and heart rate, while the necklace can act as an EKG monitor for more effective heart health data.”
The research was published in the February 12 issue of the journal Proceedings of the ACM Interactive Mobile Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.
The University of California, Berkeley, provides more information on wearable devices.
Source: University of Washington, press release, February 7, 2024
What does this mean to you? One day, earrings could help people manage their health and fitness.