How a smartphone can diagnose otitis

For the first time, US researchers have created the first smartphone application which can diagnose ear infections in children. The application emits a subtle sound and listens to the way the sound is reflected.

For the app to work, all it takes is a smartphone and a folded paper funnel. According to the study published in the American Medical journal “Science Translational Medicine”, the new application detects with 85% accuracy whether there is liquid behind the ear drum.

The application, which solves this problem and was created by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle headed by Associate Professor Siam Gokolakta and Justin Chan, emits a continuous sound of only 150 milliseconds through the paper funnel, which is placed near the ear. Both acute and chronic ear infections create fluid behind the drum, resulting in the sound that would normally vibrate the drum being reflected back unchanged.

The application, which uses a specific algorithm to “read” the sound, has been tested in children aged 18 months to 17 years and its 85% diagnostic efficacy regarding the presence of fluid due to infection is revealed by comparison with specialized medical methods such as the tympanogram.