Otitis, that’s bad! But a new app reveals ear infections quickly and on a par with more sophisticated instruments, so as to intervene immediately. The research comes from the University of Washinton and promises to be a true technological revolution.
Otitis infections are rather painful, as well as dangerous if neglected. According to reports in specialized journals, acute otitis media (AOM) is the most common infection requiring medical therapy in children under the age of 5, which is one of the most common reasons for sending a child to otorhinolaryngology specialist visit.
This condition occurs when infected fluid accumulates in the middle ear behind the eardrum. Among other things, being more difficult to listen to, it can be particularly harmful when the child is learning to speak.
Furthermore, in children the diagnosis can be difficult (as for many of their pathologies) due to their difficulty in expressing themselves and to the rather vague and variegated symptoms (sometimes with fever, sometimes not, sometimes without symptoms in the initial stage). ).
Researchers at the University of Washinton have therefore sought a method of rapid diagnosis, suitable for children but also user-friendly so that it can also be used by inexperienced adults. Their studies have led to an app that is used using a piece of paper together with a smartphone’s microphone and speaker, capable of detecting liquids behind the eardrum.
When the simple but highly effective instrumentation comes into operation, it emits a series of chirps that can be heard through a small paper funnel and, depending on the way in which the trills are reflected on the phone, the app determines the probability of presence of liquids with a probability of success of 85%, like the current methods used by specialists that involve tools not available to everyone.
The basic principle is acoustics: this app works by sending sounds to the ear and measuring how sound waves change while they “bounce” on the eardrum. By placing a paper funnel on the outer pavilion, sound waves are guided into and out of the ear canal.
When the phone plays a continuous 150 millisecond sound, which sounds like a bird chirping, the sound waves are reflected on the eardrum, returning through the funnel: at that point, they are captured by the smartphone’s microphone along with the original trills. However, if there is fluid from the inside, they are reflected and interfere with those of the initial sounds in a different way, creating a large and deep drop in the general signal.
“Designing an accurate screening tool on something that is now everywhere like a smartphone can change the fate of the game for parents and health workers in regions with limited resources,” explains Shyam Gollakota, co-author of the research – A key advantage of our technology is the fact that it does not require any additional hardware besides a piece of paper and a software application running on the smartphone ”.
Once diagnosed, ear infections can and must then be treated by specialists, but rapid screening at home could help parents decide if it is really necessary to take the child to the doctor.