J Am Acad Audiol 2020; 31(06): 393-403
DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.19056
Research Article
American Academy of Audiology. All rights reserved. (2020) American Academy of Audiology

Preliminary Examination of the Accuracy of a Fall Detection Device Embedded into Hearing Instruments

Justin R. Burwinkel
1   Starkey Hearing Technologies, Eden Prairie, MN
Buye Xu
1   Starkey Hearing Technologies, Eden Prairie, MN
Jeff Crukley
1   Starkey Hearing Technologies, Eden Prairie, MN
› Author Affiliations
Funding This study received financial support from Starkey Hearing Technologies.
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
03 August 2020 (online)


Background Accidental falls are a significant health risk to older adults and patients seen in audiology clinics. Personal emergency response systems are effective in preventing long lies (defined as remaining on the floor or ground for greater than one hour after a fall), but some individuals would prefer to wear less-conspicuous devices than a traditional neck-worn pendant. No previous investigation has compared the accuracy of head-worn fall detection devices with those worn on other parts of the body. In this study, we compared the accuracy of one commonly used fall detection pendant with two variants of a new hearing instrument-based fall detection system.

Purpose The purpose of the study was to evaluate the accuracy of detecting falls by using inertial sensors embedded in hearing instruments.

Research Design A study with repeated measures for one group.

Study Sample Ten young adults served as participants. All participants had normal or corrected-to-normal vision during testing. Individuals were excluded if they had self-reported cardiac disorders, recent concussions, or musculoskeletal conditions.

Data Collection and Analysis Data were collected from inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors, embedded into a binaural set of hearing instruments, during laboratory-based simulations of falls, near-falls, and activities of daily living (ADLs). The detection state of a fall detection pendant was simultaneously recorded during performance of each trial and compared with the outputs of offline hearing instrument firmware emulators.

Results One hearing instrument-based fall detection system was more accurate than the fall detection pendant. A second hearing instrument-based fall detection system performed similar to the fall detection pendant. Each of the three fall detection systems investigated were robust against false-positive detections during ADLs.

Conclusions Preliminary findings demonstrate that hearing instruments embedded with a fall detection device (FDD) may be a suitable alternative to more traditional forms of FDDs (e.g., pendant, wrist-worn device, etc.) for detecting falls and potentially preventing long lies.