Do your ears rumble? Take part in the University of Bath’s latest health study

Dr Nick Gompertz with the prototype ’Earswitch’ device being develop
Dr Nick Gompertz with the prototype ’Earswitch’ device being developed with researchers at the University. Credit: Nic Delves-Broughton.

A team of researchers at The University of Bath, in collaboration with Earswitch Ltd., are calling for volunteers who can ear rumble.

  • Published on Friday 9 February 2024
  • Last updated on Friday 9 February 2024

If you have the ability to ear rumble, you can now contribute to the creation of a revolutionary device called Earswitch. Created by Somerset-based GP, Dr Nick Gompertz, and developed with the help of Bath researchers, it could allow people with neurological conditions to communicate.

The EarSwitch is an ear-based assistive communication device. It uses a small in-ear camera to detect when a tiny muscle in the ear is contracted or tightened. This muscle is called the tensor tympani (TT) and for some people it can be controlled voluntarily. When the TT muscle contracts you may hear a dull rumbling sound, this is known as "ear rumbling".

There is the possibility that the ability to ear rumble may be preserved until later stages of degenerative diseases (e.g., motor neurone disease). Research assistant, Louise Buller, from the University’s Department of Health explains why the ear-based communication device could offer a breakthrough: "People with later stage MND may be unable to use current existing assistive devices but if they are still able to use their ear to "ear rumble", it could prolong their ability to communicate if they could use the Earswitch."

The University of Bath researchers are looking to recruit 100 people aged 18+ who can "ear rumble" on demand. The 90-minute test involves wearing the Earswitch whilst making "ear rumbles" and performing computer-based tasks to test how well you can ear rumble. There will also be interactive applications including playing a dinosaur game and entering text using an on-screen keyboard. The "ear rumbling" participants will also answer questions on the comfort and usability of the earbud device.

For the full criteria and to see what’s involved visit https://www.bath.ac.uk/g­uides/ear-­rumbling-t­he-partici­pants-proj­ect-guide/