EarHealth: Smartphone application for the diagnosis of ear infections

Scientists have developed an application for Androiod and iOS, named Earhealth, that can diagnose ear infections in young children.


If there is one disease that every child will suffer from at least once, it is an ear infection. The problem becomes even greater when there is a predisposition and infections increase in frequency. This requires many visits to the doctor, ie money and time. Soon, however, there will be a solution for pre-diagnosis at home, so that visits to the pediatrician are more targeted and justified. Scientists have developed an application for a smartphone, which they call it EarHealth to diagnose ear infections. It works by listening to the fluid in the ears by adding a folded paper.

By age 3, most children have at least one ear infection. Usually the infection builds up fluid in the middle area of ​​the ear (behind the eardrum) and infection from it can cause otitis. Scientists at the University of Washington have developed an application that works as a simple test. He listens to the liquid in the ears with the help of a paper funnel. They report that it has the same or greater accuracy as the pediatrician's method.

Physicians, when diagnosed, are looking for drum changes, often with a drum test, which is 80 with 90 percent effective and requires a specific tool. The goal of the University of Washington scientists was to create a tool that would be inexpensive and easy to use, but at the same time would maintain the same precision.

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They developed the EarHealth application, which emits high-frequency sounds in the ear through a paper folded and placed on a smartphone. The sound waves bounce from the ear back to the phone. The reflected sound is collected and analyzed by the application, which predicts the probabilities fluid behind the drum, based on signal fluctuations.

As Eugene Chan, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, Paul Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, explains, Depending on whether the glass is empty or half full, you will have a different sound. The same principle exists here. "

The application was tested in children aged 18 months to 17 years who were admitted to the Seattle Children's Hospital. Half of them were scheduled to put tubes in their ear through surgery to cope with fluid build-up, while the other half started to show symptoms.

As Chan puts it, "It is not easy with existing tools to detect the fluid in the middle ear cavity (behind the eardrum). Really, the only way to know for sure is to have surgery where they make an incision in the eardrum, where fluid can drain. So when you make this incision, you can tell for sure if there is fluid or not.

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The application in this initial clinical study was able to predict fluid in the ear with 85 percent accuracy and no fluid in the ear at 80 percent accuracy. The application was improved and tested in fifteen infants aged between 9 and 18 months. Accurately 100 percent, spotted all five babies who had fluid and also spotted nine of the ten who had no fluid in their ears.

The next test was to see if parents could do this diagnosis on their own, after a short tutorial on the application. The accuracy was the same, showing scientists that this would be an easy method for home use.

In addition, there was no additional pressure on the children. "Paper hoppers are quite soft. "And it's interesting that when we looked at the children's ears in the hospital with their smartphones, we found that they responded with smiles or laughter," Chan said.

The goal is for EarHealth to become a diagnostic tool at home, but Chan also believes it could be used by doctors in less developed areas. The app works on both iPhone and Android and with different types of paper. They are now awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.

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