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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter September 20, 2023

Towards the Application of Hearables for Near-Fall Detection

  • Lea Feld EMAIL logo , Sandra Hellmers , Lena Schell-Majoor , Jessica Koschate , Tania Zieschang , Birger Kollmeier and Andreas Hein


Introduction: Falls and gait disorders often result in hospitalization and immobilization. Near-falls may be one of the earliest signs of increased fall risk. In the literature, several sensor positions are used for fall detection, but few studies include the head as a sensor position. Hearables and hearing aids are increasingly equipped with inertial measurement units (IMUs) and are therefore of particular interest for measuring the risk of falling in everyday life. Methods: Therefore, we investigate the suitability of the ear as a sensor position for near-fall detection in comparison to the standard sensor positions. The motion data of one study participant (female, 63 years) was exemplary analyzed. The participant walked at her individually preferred gait speed on a perturbation treadmill while nine different perturbations (anterior-posterior, medio-lateral and pitch) were applied with a time interval of 20-30 seconds. We used seven IMUs during the measurement at the positions ear, sternum, lumbar, wrist (left/right), foot (left/right). Results: The absolute acceleration signals at the seven different positions show the periodicity of the normal gait before the perturbation. During and after the perturbation changes in the motion pattern can be seen, whereby the response to the perturbation occurs with a slight time lag. The Pearson correlations show that the sensor positions sternum, lumbar and ear correlate well with each other and thus show similar signal characteristics in the reaction to this perturbation. Conclusion: This provides evidence that the ear sensor position is at least comparable to the preferred sensor positions in the literature on the torso. However, these results were obtained under laboratory conditions. Further research is needed to investigate the sensor position at the ear in everyday life.

Published Online: 2023-09-20
Published in Print: 2023-09-01

© 2023 the author(s), published by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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