New app-based Thai EarTest detects dementia risk
Thai speakers can now test their hearing and dementia risk thanks to a new app-based test developed jointly by Chulalongkorn University’s faculties of Medicine and Science, University College London (UCL) and an industrial partner.
The EarTest, available via the Eartone app, uses Thai words to examine hearing while also enabling people to screen themselves before consulting a physician to help prevent and reduce risk of dementia.
Currently, there are 12 million elderly persons over the age of 60, among for which around 5-10 percent or about 1 million are at risk ofdementia. The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. If dementia occurs, it will cause difficulties for the patients and their families. Currently, dementia cannot be treated. Therefore, preventing dementia is crucial.
According to Assistant Professor Chaiyaphat Chunharasmi, M.D., a brain specialist “reduced hearing is a highest risk factor of developing dementia that can be prevented, so older people should regularly check their hearing and brain activity. If in doubt, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to check for symptoms.”
Nattawan Utoomprurkporn, M.D., a lecturer of the Department of Otolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, tell us that this project, Eartest by Eartone Application, use speech recognition to assess the potential risks of dementia. It is a hearing test to determine the ability to comprehend words and sentences that are in the Thai language using the virtual reality (VR) technique. It simulates real situations where sounds are coming from different directions to detect the processing of the brain in native language use by the patients. This can indicate whether there will be a chance of dementia occurrence in the next 5-10 years.”
“As recommended by World Health Organization, those who should be screened for hearing loss are those over the age of 50. The application is a Thai language hearing test with an assessment of the most important of the 12 indicators of dementia risk.”
Prof. Dr. Stuart Rosen, professor of linguistics at the University College London (UCL), explained that “the Thai languageis characterized by varying tones giving different meanings. International collaboration with researchers from Chulalongkorn University is driven by a common goal and vision to develop assessments for the hearing impaired, the elderly, and those who may have dementia using virtual reality techniques. This is to make the assessment of the hearing more realistic, and beneficial at a larger scale as well as applicable in many countries while enhancing the learning and knowledge exchange in the speech science.
The Eartest by Eartone Application was developed under the Thai Speech Acoustic Virtual Reality (Thai-SAVR) Test for the Detection of Early Dementia research project with the cooperation of several relevant sectors, including the Royal Academy of Engineering, the United Kingdom through the British Embassy in Thailand and knowledge transfer from the University College London (UCL), the United Kingdom and with the support of the Program Management Unit for Competitiveness (PMUC), Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) together with our industrial partner. Moreover, British Council, and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI)also support the project through the Thai-UK World-Class University Consortium, as well as cooperation from the industrial sector.
Eartest by Eartone, which is a brief screening version of the full test battery, is currently available for free download on both iOS and Android. Just install it on your phone and you can take a self-hearing test to determine your risk of dementia before going to the hospital for further diagnosis and treatment.