Could the future of fitness AirPod competitors be stress management? Valencell’s tech is ready for heart-rate sensing earbuds coming this year.

There’s one big health measurement that’s really important, yet keeps eluding wearable tech: blood pressure. I measure my own blood pressure sometimes — I have high blood pressure. I tried Omron’s FDA-cleared inflatable-cuff blood pressure watch, HeartGuide, last year. But maybe there’s another place where blood pressure wearables could work: our ears. According to one company, blood-pressure earbuds are on their way this year and they actually work.

Valencell is a health tech company that makes many of the optical heart-rate sensors that use photoplethysmography, or PPG, to check your pulse in watches, earbuds and even on phones. The company’s been working for years on trying to adapt those same sensors to measure blood pressure. Valencell’s President Steven LeBoeuf told me about how the ear is by far the best area to measure blood pressure compared to a finger or wrist: The ear has more blood flow and a richer heart rate reading, and ears stay the same distance from your heart (as long as you’re not bending over).

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