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‘Revolutionary’ Smartphone App Detects Ear Infections in Children

Sinead Donnelly


Baby with ear infection

The experimental app uses acoustic testing to detect a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed an app that enables parents to ‘hear’ ear infections in their children.

The team of engineers and doctors stated that the experimental app uses acoustic testing to detect a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

By simply combining a folded piece of paper with a smartphone’s microphone and speaker, parents can diagnose their child’s ear infection from the comfort of their own home.

The revolutionary app broadcasts a series of chirps into the eardrum, interprets the echo and is said to successfully identify the infection with 85% accuracy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the US Department of Health, ear infections are difficult to diagnose and occur as a result of a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The painful condition can also be coupled with headaches and a fever and is commonly associated with young children.

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Ear infections are also one of the most prevalent reasons parents take their children to be seen by a paediatrician, as a build-up of fluid can also hinder a child’s speech progression.

Lead author of the report, Justin Chan, said: “Depending on how much liquid is in [the ear], you get different sounds. Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid.”

The app was trialled to detect the presence of fluid in 53 children aged between 18 months and 17 years old at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Many of the children were reported to have reacted to the soft chirps by smiling or laughing.

Shyam Gollakota, a co-author of the paper, has described the app as “game changing” for parents, as well as health care providers in “resource limited regions”.

The smartphone app is expected to be made available to the public via a start-up company called Edus Health.

sinead photo

Sinead Donnelly


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