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There may soon be an app for detecting ear infections

By Cookie Monster - on 19 May 2019, 9:00am

There may soon be an app for detecting ear infections

Image source: HealthDay

Researchers at the University of Washington plan to  commercialize an app that can detect ear infections.

According to the researchers, the app relies on the smartphone to emit several soft, audible chirps into the ear through a small paper funnel. The app will then determine the likelihood of fluid behind the eardrum based on the the way the chirps are reflected back to the phone.

"It's like tapping a wine glass," said co-first author Justin Chan, a doctoral student in the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"Depending on how much liquid is in it, you get different sounds," he explained in a university news release. "Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid."

Ear infections occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and gets contaminated. While ear infections can hurt and make it hard to hear, there can be no symptoms which makes diagnosis difficult. 

Researchers trained the app to detect the changes in sound by testing on 53 children aged 18 months to 17 years, at Seattle Children's Hospital. About half were scheduled to undergo surgery to remove fluid buildup while the other half had surgeries unrelated to ears. The researchers added that the app accurately identified the likelihood of fluid 85% of the time, which is similar to the specialized tools that use acoustics or a puff of air.

"Designing an accurate screening tool on something as ubiquitous as a smartphone can be game-changing for parents as well as health care providers in resource-limited regions," co-author Shyam Gollakota said in the news release. He's an associate professor of computer science and engineering.

"A key advantage of our technology is that it does not require any additional hardware other than a piece of paper and a software app running on the smartphone," Gollakota added.

Source: HealthDay