This smartphone app uses paper to ‘hear’ ear infections in kids

18 Mai, 2019, 04:38 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • University of Washington in May 2019 Dr. Randall Bly uses a uses a phone app and a paper funnel to focus the sound to check his daughter for an ear infection at the UW School of Medicine in Seattle. Bly and other

They claim to have created a simple test that uses a smartphone and folded up paper to detect one of the telltale signs of infection - fluid in the ears - with about the same or greater accuracy as a doctor.

The newly developed app, which was detailed in a study published in Science Translation Medicine, uses a paper funnel and the technology already found in the average smartphone to detect the middle ear infection and alert parents to the issue.

The smartphone makes a series of soft audible chirps into the ear through a small paper funnel and, depending on the way the chirps are reflected back to the phone, the app determines the likelihood of fluid present with 85pc accuracy.

"It's like tapping a wine glass", Justin Chan, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, said.

"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", said study co-author Shyam Gollakota, a professor in the university's engineering and computer science school. The smartphone app detects and analyzes these discrepancies in frequency and predicts the likelihood of fluid buildup.

When there is no fluid behind the eardrum, the eardrum vibrates and sends a variety of sound waves back. That figure is the same as the specialist tools doctors now use to detect fluid in the middle ear.

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The researchers tested the system using an iPhone 5S and a Galaxy S6 on the ears of 98 patients between the ages of 18 months and 17 years.

A deeper pitch in the sound indicates that the middle ear is filled with fluid.

Ear infections are the most common reason kids see a pediatrician, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Ear infections can be pretty hard to spot with children, especially very young ones. Around half of the children were due to undergo surgery for ear tube placement and the other half were due to undergo surgeries for problems unrelated to ears.

"A quick screening at home could help parents decide whether or not they need to take their child to the doctor", researchers said. Really, the only way you can know, with complete certainty, is to undergo a surgical operation where they make an incision into the eardrum, where it can drain the fluid. "So these surgeries created the ideal setting for this study", explains co-first author Sharat Raju. Roughly half of those kids were getting tubes in their ears replaced, while the others were getting their tonsils removed or another non-ear procedure. This time, the app correctly identified all 5 children who had ear fluid, while correctly guessing nine of the 10 children who didn't have fluid.

The algorithm itself was correct in 85% of the patients, which the team says is comparable to current methods that specialized doctors use.

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