Is there anything worse than having a sick and miserable child? Yep! Not knowing why your child is sick and miserable. Luckily a new app has been developed which can help parents detect painful ear infections in children, and it may soon find its way to your smartphone.
Take one app and one piece of paper
A team of scientists from the University of Washington created the app, which detects fluid behind the eardrum, Science Daily reports.
To use the app, parents roll a regular piece of paper into a funnel shape and pop it just inside their child’s ear. The app then uses the smartphone’s microphone and speaker, emitting a series of soft bird-like chirps into the funnel. The way those chips bounce back to the phone help to determine the likelihood of fluid behind the ear.
Medical professionals use a similar technique to detect fluid in the ear, using acoustics and puffs of air.
This app aims to make it easier for both parents and healthcare providers to pinpoint the cause of a child’s pain, and prompt treatment sooner rather than later.
Painful ear infections are easily treated via antibiotics, and this app hopes to take the guesswork out seeking that initial diagnosis.
Different sounds provide clues
The team behind this app recently published details about it in medical journal Science Translational Medicine.
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They explained that the app’s software is armed with a library of ear sounds, which help it to work out whether troublesome fluid is present or not.
“It’s like tapping a wine glass,” Justin Chan, a doctoral student in the Allen School and a co-first author on this paper said. “Depending on how much liquid is in it, you get different sounds. Using machine learning on these sounds, we can detect the presence of liquid.”
“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.
“If parents could use a piece of hardware they already have to do a quick physical exam that can say ‘Your child most likely doesn’t have ear fluid’ or ‘Your child likely has ear fluid, you should make an appointment with your paediatrician,’ that would be huge.”
The app is still in the development phase, but watch this space for news of its future release.