Racially inclusive ear biometrics for diagnostics and monitoring

EarSwitch is empowering new ways to control and connect with the world through in-ear biometric switch and sensor technology.

EarSwitch Logo
  • Empowering individuals with non-verbal neuro-disabilities to communicate.
  • A solution to reducing pulse oximetry health inequalities.
  • Communication facilitated using a tiny muscle in the ear.

Dr Nick Gompertz, founder of EarSwitch Ltd, is a GP who enrolled onto the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme in 2022.

Founded in 2019, EarSwitch was originally designed to help address health inequalities by allowing people with severe neuro-disabilities, such as motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, and locked-in syndrome to communicate from within their earphones. This idea was inspired by a 13-year-old who is non-verbal with cerebral palsy who wrote a book, by gazing, one letter at a time on a Perspex “spelling board”; entitled “Eye Can Write”.

‘‘EarSwitch- Switching the way we interact with the world’’

The device is a handsfree control in a normal earphone which allows communication through the tensing of a tiny muscle within the ear. Nick then discovered that the sensors in the ear were picking up much more than just voluntary movement of the eardrum; but also, pulse/ flushing of the eardrum/ movements related to eye movements. This discovery resulted in a new health monitoring method.

The EarSwitch findings have now developed to potential further solutions, exploring additional supportive tools, hand free control, 3D mouse control and a new approach to pulse oximetry. With the potential of providing control of all your electronic devices, and health & fitness monitoring, from one sensor in your earphones.

During the Covid-19 pandemic a health inequality was highlighted within the current method of oximetry, which has resulted in poor oximetry measurements for people with darker skin. The team saw this health inequality and identified that the ear is an effective site for oximetry as it is central with no pigmentation, which allows for accurate readings in all ethnic groups. The device will be a multi-diagnostic handheld “ear-thermometer” and an earphone continuous monitoring device, relevant to health care environments, home use and hospital at home/ virtual care.

‘’We have discovered the earphone as the new Input/Output device for human computer interaction.’’

The NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme has helped Nick by facilitating amazing connections with other likeminded clinical entrepreneurs and industry experts including; NHS Medical Directors, Havas Lynx, JHub Med and Defence Medical Services. These connections have helped the team to pursue the Pulse Oximetry project and open channels of communication as their technology readiness levels mature. Overall, EarSwitch has developed a lot with the support from the NHS CEP and to date have achieved over £2m in grant funding (over 6 publicly funded grants), Seed EIS raise completed and they have built a team of 6, with multiple advisors.

“Engage with whatever help you can find — universities are a great source of early help; they often have business support schemes and are keen to help and apply for joint funding. If you are an intrapreneur or entrepreneur then you need to apply for the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme and meet your tribe who can help support you through.”  

Nick Gompertz

Looking to the future

EarSwitch has progressed from a simple camera in the ear detecting voluntary movement, to now having a range of complex sensors with improved signal to noise ratio. The next steps are to pursue early clinical validation with the Royal United Hospital in Bath on the pulse oximetry against arterial blood gas measurements.

Please use the links below for more information about Nick Gompertz and EarSwitch.