Sleep Detection Built Into Hearing Aids?

#1

Here’s a free idea for HA OEM’s. If any OEM can make good on it and put it in a good top-quality HA, I’ll buy it. It would be good life insurance for me on into the future.

A sleep detector for your HA’s. No, not for when you’re tucked safely into bed and catching Zzz’s.

Rather for when you’re driving and fall asleep at the wheel.

I was driving home from Austin the other night on IH-35 at 70 to 75 mph, thought I was fairly awake and reasonably caffeinated but I was a bit short on sleep. The wife was sound asleep in the front passenger seat. All of a sudden my head dropped because I fell asleep. What fortunately woke me up in flash, like a knee-jerk reaction, was my chin hitting my chest. It alarmed me so much that I had no trouble staying awake the rest of the way home.

In the future, I’m going to try not to shortchange myself on any sleep and get my wife to stay awake, converse with me, etc., to make sure that I don’t fatally doze off on any long, boring (especially nighttime) ~ 100 mile highway drives. I usually keep the radio blaring and deliberately change stations just to have something to do to keep my mind occupied but that strategy failed in this instance.

I imagine that the same sort of technology (accelerometers) used in fall detection in HA’s could be put to good use along with other data collected from a smartwatch, etc. At the very least AI associated with the HA app could talk to you (just like the wife!) from time to time, especially if it suspected from incoming data that your alertness was flagging - ask you a question or two that you had to answer. I should imagine that someday something like the Microsoft Hololens 2, which can track eye movement, would do an even better job, but anything like that is right now way too expensive and way too many years off from a consumer version whereas at least the Starkey Livio’s already have built-in motion detection that might be adapted to track sleep or uncontrolled head movements.

Since forum users generally dissed the AI built into the Starkey Livio’s as off the main goal of hearing better with HA’s, I wonder if forum members would have any interest in an HA that could reliably alert them if they started to doze off while driving or exhibited excessive symptoms of sleepiness while driving? If there were any sort of monitor at a reasonable price that could detect falling asleep at the wheel, I think I’d buy it. I know as I get older and older just sitting around in a chair at home especially after a meal I doze off very easily and want to make sure I don’t do so in the future while driving. Perhaps in the future, such AI will come built into the right cars but accelerometers in HA’s could probably sense poorly controlled wandering head movement, etc., way before the car knows anything about what’s going on - but I wouldn’t mind owning a car in the future that detects lane crossing, etc., and sounds an alert if its AI doesn’t think the driver is properly in control of the car.

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#2

There was a product a few years ago that was marketed as a driver alert device that detected nodding off behind the wheel.

It basically looked like a HA but without the mould. Just a hook and a BTE shell.

A very cheap example of one:

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#3

Thanks! I’ll check it out and see if it’s still available. At £6.99, it would be cheap if it really worked.

UPDATE If I search on “anti-sleep” I can find something similar on Amazon with reviews on several “brands.” Folks complain that it’s not sensitive enough and uncomfortable to wear but it’s worth giving it a try. I do look around constantly when I try to see how I’m doing as far as “safety zones,” etc., so it will be interesting to see how much side-to-side head movement such a device tolerates without alarming. There are also some very pricey anti-sleep items that come up ($189) but I haven’t bothered reading the reviews on those yet. Thanks again - I must have used a bad combination of search words when I tried searching Amazon before my OP. The “anti-sleep” term that came up in your reply does the job nicely on finding such devices.

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#4

Here you go. Aliexpress will take 3-6 weeks to arrive. Amazon 1-2 days but cost lots more money.

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=200004784&initiative_id=AS_20190306155241&SearchText=anti+sleep+driving+alarm

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#5

Thanks for the tip on where to get such things. I’d still like to make a plug for incorporating such functionality into HA’s along with fall detection. Perhaps because processing power and battery life are limited, sleep detection (and fall detection) could be something that you can turn on or off as needed just as one can turn Wi-Fi, BT, cellular data, and even basic cell connectivity on or off as needed on a cell phone itself to conserve battery and processing power. The various reviewers of the standalone “anti-sleep” devices complain of trouble keeping such a device on the ear, having it on while wearing glasses, etc., so I imagine that it would be hard to wear while wearing BTE(RIC) HA’s. So although having sleep detection in HA’s might have a number of limiting drawbacks, if it were possible someday, it would be one less device to wear on one’s head and as I mentioned in my OP, it might clearly talk to you in high-fidelity sound reproduction to make sure you’re awake and encourage you to stay awake rather than just having a buzzing or a ding-a-ling behind an ear, which you might more easily learn to habituate to as you nod off behind the wheel. I will try sending a suggestion to HA OEM’s directly just as a little grain of sand to add to the big pile of such “helpful” suggestions I’m sure they get.

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#6

As someone who’s been there and done that, I have to alert you to the fact that, like me back then, it sounds likely that you have undiagnosed sleep apnea. If so, no behind the ear device waking you up from dangerous unintended napping is going to mask the serious health effects of untreated sleep apnea which not only puts you at risk serious harm to yourself and loved ones, but also will significantly shorten your life.
My significant other nagged and nagged me to be tested for sleep apnea after a similar blood-curdling event, and when I finally gave in and took the test, it was a real eye-opener (literally LOL!) for me, and being treated for it has added years to my life. Literally, I am now 83 and no longer fall asleep at the wheel or elsewhere, and I wake up every morning feeling well-rested and refreshed.
Wishing you good luck, good health and best wishes,
Nate

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#7

Thanks for the suggestion, NateS. I have had a sleep apnea test 10 years ago as my wife thought I might have it. Showed normal sleep patterns. I think being 73, eating a very big meal before setting out on the trip home, and only getting 5 hours of sleep the night before are more likely the causes of falling asleep, as well as the monotonous patterns of nighttime driving with the road seeming to move underneath you as you “go nowhere.” When I sleep enough hours, I wake up feeling rested.

Too bad that one can’t wear RIC HA’s when sleeping as I’m sure with the microphones, etc., they could potentially be useful for informal screening for sleep apnea - abnormal breathing, snoring, patterns, etc., used in conjunction with a smart watch. I like you recommend anyone who has possible symptoms get tested. In my case, all I had to tell was tell my physician that my wife thought I stopped breathing at times during the night (that was the only “symptom” - not supported by fatigue or anything else).

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