Swelling is often the cause of major brain damage following traumatic brain injuries. As the brain swells, fluids in the cranial cavity exert force on the brain and skull referred to as intracranial pressure (ICP) which can cause the brain to be squished against the skull, cutting off blood flow and afflicted regions which can even cause stroke.
Normally, the only way to monitor swelling is through scans or having a hole drilled into the skull and a catheter inserted within. This invasive management technique can lead to infection, not to mention removing bone from the already injured head, and as such is only used as a last resort. “Right now the main challenge with ICP is that the only good way to monitor it accurately and continuously is the invasive way,” Guy Weinberg, chief executive officer of HeadSense, told Gizmodo.
Headsense, an Israeli startup, is hoping to solve that problem with simple disposable earbuds that will be able to monitor ICP using sound waves, preventing the need for invasive measures unless there are dangerous pressure levels. The headphones will be able to send a series of low frequency tones through one side of your head and record the sounds as the reach the other side of the skull. By measuring the distortions caused by blood flow variations, the system can then calculate ICP within seconds.
Weinberg compares the system to a pipe organ, as the organ “has pipes with different diameter that produce sounds with different pitch.”
The headphones are still trying to achieve FDA approval, but Headsense hopes to have the product available for all brain injury patients soon.