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Researchers implement a technological solution for the detection of ear infections in children using a smartphone application.

Ear infections are a frequent health concern among young children. They occur as a result of fluid build up in the ear and can cause pain along with hearing difficulties. It can be difficult to diagnose an ear infection, particularly for younger children. In many cases, symptoms may not occur immediately or the symptoms that do occur may coincide with those of other medical conditions. Depending on the age of the child, communication may also be a barrier. To address this dilemma, scientists devised a technological tool that assists in detecting ear infections in children. The American study was recently published in Science Translational Medicine.

The smartphone app developed by researchers from the University of Washington utilizes a phone’s speaker and microphone features to record data, which in turn is interpreted for signs of ear infections. A paper funnel is used to transmit audible but soft sounds into the ear using the phone’s speakers. The microphone then detects the sound reflections from the ear back into the phone. The app records these sound reflections and utilizes the data to determine the probability of fluid buildup behind the eardrum.

Currently, the app’s likelihood of detecting an ear infection stands at 85%, which aligns with the accuracy of specialized tools used in clinics. The researchers recognized that the accessibility of a smartphone and a piece of paper is highly advantageous in detecting ear infections. Since treatments for ear infections are readily available, early diagnosis helps to expedite the treatment process. The app can detect fluid buildup through machine learning. Without the presence of fluid, the sound waves sent back vary significantly due to vibrations from the eardrum. In contrast, the presence of fluid returns sound waves with little changes.

The app serves multiple benefits for healthcare professionals as well as patients and caregivers. It offers a low-cost option for detecting ear infections in children that incorporates accessible and mobile tools. An 85% success rate further encourages its use in relation to currently available methods and allows for easy and quick detection.

Written by Shrishti Ahuja HBSc

Reference: First smartphone app that can hear ear infections in children. (n.d.). Retrieved June 07, 2019, from

Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

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