The ear is the new wrist — for fitness tracking, anyway

Health and fitness trackers have become commonplace in our digital lives. As we strive to stay healthier, we look to fitness trackers as a gateway to our overall health and wellness.

The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps or roughly 1.5 to 2 miles per day1. Yet walking 10,000 steps per day has been shown to lower overall risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and correlates with reduced risk of many common forms of cancer2

Wrist-worn fitness tracker 

Wrist-worn fitness trackers aren’t always reliable

Unfortunately, commercially available fitness trackers are often highly inaccurate. Stanford Division of Cardiovascular Medicine investigated commonly worn wrist-based fitness trackers and found them to be largely inaccurate in appropriately tracking energy expenditure derived from heart rate and step counts3.

None of the devices they tested were able to achieve error rates less than 20%3.

In a separate study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, the iPhone’s pedometer function was found to be on average 21.5% less accurate compared to a research grade step tracker in free-living situations4.

The ear is a more accurate place to track your health

Scientists have long believed the ear to be a more reliable place to track movement and monitor health properties. In 2015, Outside magazine wrote:

“While the wrist is full of muscles and tendons that move, the ear is all cartilage and about the most inert part of your body. It’s also dark and the arteries here are near the surface of the skin. Shove a sensor into your ear and the signal is about 100 times clearer than at the wrist.”5 

MIT Technology Review wrote in 2014, “If you’re going to choose a place on the body to measure physical signals…two places are far and away the best: the ear and the rear.”6 

Ear-worn fitness tracker 

New Livio AI are the first and only hearing aids to feature 3D motion sensors

The engineers and scientists at Starkey Hearing Technologies knew that the ear was a prime health monitoring spot when we started work on Livio AI, the world’s first hearing aid that tracks body and brain health.

That’s because the ear is a more stable surface, and is consistent with the movements of the rest of the body, whereas the wrist and pocket have ancillary movements. These ancillary movements (which are not step related), lead to false positive and false negative step calculations and thus, higher variability.

Also, hearing aids (like our Livio AI devices) are more likely to be worn longer and more reliably due to their multifunctional nature, and people are less likely to leave them behind during daily activities. Gaps in step count and “step-regret” are less likely due to power failures or forgetfulness with Livio AI vs. fitness trackers worn on the wrist or in a pocket.

Track your brain and body health with Livio AI

As the first hearing aids with 3D motion sensors and built-in artificial intelligence, Livio AI — along with the Thrive Hearing app — let you reliably monitor not only your steps and overall movement, they also measure actions that are good for your brain health, like daily usage of your hearing aids, social engagement, and time spent listening actively.

With Livio AI, taking charge of your health and your quality of life has never been easier. To learn more about Livio AI hearing aids or to try them risk-free for yourself, click here.

Join our community of Starkey Blog subscribers

Want a week's worth of Starkey blogs delivered to your inbox? Sign up here. 

1 2016 National Health Interview Survey
2 2013, Kaiser Permanente “The Gift of Walking” retrieved from:
3 Shcherbina JPM, 2017
4 Duncan Journal of Sport Sciences, 2018

By Starkey Hearing