Most older adults — 93% — want to live independently for as long as possible. They prefer to age in place rather than go to a facility for care. According to an AARP study, they want to stay home even when physical or cognitive decline and related depression make it difficult to live independently. While agencies and businesses created aging-in-place focused services to fill that gap, vocal biomarkers and pre-planning are essential for the best independent living outcome possible.
One of the companies determined to help older adults is Sonde Health. Its innovative technology uses a person’s vocal biomarkers to identify mood or behavior changes. CEO David Liu says technology can identify dementia well before its effects are easily noticed. “Over the past five years, we’ve been part of a growing and now burgeoning part of the digital space of vocal biomarkers.”
Note: digital biomarkers, like those taken on wearable trackers, are measurements from the body such as blood pressure, pulse, breathing, etc. Other familiar biomarkers can be found in blood, saliva, perspiration, urine, etc.
Additionally, a recent survey suggests that older adults are open to using tech to detect changes since nearly half of the respondents over 55 use health-related technologies like a medical alert system or wearable medical or health-related trackers.
Mr. Liu said their technology is not a digital diagnostic tool or medical instrument. Instead, “we are an early warning system” that must be created before any decline starts. The system “work[s] best when we have longitudinal readings of your voice over a period of time so that we can inform the consumer, patient, medical, or care provider of changes in your health that you might need to see a doctor,” he added.
How Sonde Health Uses Vocal Biomarkers
Sonde Health records a person’s voice as a baseline to get the early warning system up and running. Each subsequent recording builds on the last. “We are not doing natural language processing. We’re not trying to understand what it is you’re saying,” Mr. Liu explains. “We are simply deconstructing the sound of your voice. I like to say we break your voice down to the atomic level. There are literally millions of vocal features in your voice that can be captured digitally.”
“After measuring your voice, it is analyzed, and with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), we compare large data sets of healthy voices and those with various health conditions,” Mr. Liu further explained.
“Our data set is the largest health voice data set worldwide. As a result, we can provide some fantastic insight that can help people stay on track and fit from the shoulders up.”
The best feature of this voice technology is the user is not tied to a device; they do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy a wearable device. “All they need to do is be close to or near any device with a microphone. So, that could be your smart devices (phone, speaker, and TV), laptop, tablet, or even earbuds.”
Sonde Health has a proven track record using vocal biomarkers with its Mental Fitness tracker, which is available as an app for both Apple and Android devices. Additionally, “any health company, organization, or provider can use Sonde’s mental fitness API to enable their apps to engage and activate their population on mental health through voice,” according to the company’s website. Mr. Liu explained: “We want to be where people are naturally without forcing them to buy a $350 wearable.”
Pilot Study Partnership
A Sonde Health press release announced a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital earlier this year. They agreed to partner on a pilot study that leverages “vocal biomarkers for remote detection and monitoring of mild cognitive impairment in the home environment.
This study is an essential step in validating vocal biomarkers as a valuable tool for providers in the early detection of many health conditions.”
Sonde’s CEO said, “They are very excited about our studies. I mean, we’re just kind of geeks about all that stuff. So, we love it. But this study is special because, number one, they chose us. And this study specifically is to study people in their home environment. It is so fabulous!”
Mr. Liu continued talking about his excitement, “It’s really cool because we know vocal biomarkers are where things are going. We’ve seen the acceleration of in-home care and aging in place.” Additionally, he is excited that it is a longitudinal study, which allows them to monitor and collect valuable data.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Interview: David Liu, Sonde Health CEO; March 17, 2023
Sonde Health: Unleash the power of voice as a vital sign
Sonde Health: Sonde Health and MassGen Selected for MassAITC Pilot Study to Examine Use of Voice in Remote Detection and Monitoring of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Featured and Top Image by Keith Tanner Courtesy of Unsplash
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