A new smartphone app can detect fluid behind the eardrum by simply using a piece of paper and a smartphone's microphone and speaker. That funnel acts as a conduit as the phone sends soundwaves into the child's ear canal - soundwaves that are measured after they bounce back off the eardrum.
Of 25 ears tested, both doctors and parents correctly identified the six ears that did have fluid and also agreed on 18 of the 19 ears that did not have fluid.
The system specifically targets middle ear infections, which are very common in children and responsible for the majority of trips parents make to pediatricians. The new system, which was validated in 98 patient ears in a pediatric surgical center, could provide a low-priced and effective tool for parents to detect ear infections such as acute otitis media (AOM), a leading cause of visits to pediatric health providers. Their findings were published May 15 in Science Translational Medicine.
"Depending on if the glass is empty or half-full, you'll get a different sound". The app is launched, the funnel is placed near the child's outer ear, and a chirping tone is played through the phone. Bly and other researchers at the school have developed the system to "hear" a warning sign of ear infections _ fluid build-up behind the eardrum.
One researcher offered a useful analogy - and one that frustrated parents might relate to.
The problem arises when fluid accumulates in the middle ear behind the ear drum and becomes infected.
Once an ear infection has been diagnosed, it can easily be treated and any fluid that persists can be monitored or drained to relieve pain and/or hearing loss.
"Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid", says first author Justin Chan. The 150-millisecond audio clip resembles a bird chirping and was found to be effective in the researcher's work.
"The definitive way to know if there is fluid is to make an incision in the eardrum", Gollakota explained.
Half of the children had been scheduled to undergo a surgery that could treat their chronic ear fluid buildup by placing small hollow tubes inside, while the other half were getting procedures unrelated to their ears.
"Fluid behind the eardrum is so common in children that there's a direct need for an accessible and accurate screening tool that can be used at home or clinical settings", said co-first author Dr. Sharat Raju, a surgical resident in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the UW School of Medicine.
The team wanted to give parents a quick and reliable way of screening for the condition at home, to help them decide whether or not to take their child to the doctor.
To create the device, Chan and team trained an algorithm to detect the signal changes by testing 53 children aged 18 months to 17 years.