This smartphone app can find out if your child has otitis media

Thanks to an acoustic device, a mobile application makes it possible to detect the presence of otitis in a child by merely using his smartphone. The idea is to create a prediagnosis to know if a visit to the doctor is necessary.

Engineers from the University of Washington in the United States have invented a mobile app to detect if a child has otitis, and answer one of the most common questions from parents.

The application developed by the researchers, who have in the journal  Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday emits a continuous sound, like the chirping of birds in the ear canal of the child,  through a simple paper funnel manufactured by the parents. 

It must be held in the ear 1.2 seconds. The application then listens by the microphone of the smartphone the acoustic signal returned by the ear: if fluids or pus are behind the eardrum in the middle ear, the sound returned will be more severe and indicate an infection.

”  It’s a bit like a glass of wine,” says Shyam Gollakota, the lab’s chief who invented the app.”  If you ring the glass with your finger, the sound will be different depending on the level of liquid in the glass,  ” said the professor of computer science and engineering at AFP.

85% Success Rate

The application has been tested on a hundred years and has detected 85% of ear infections. According to Shyam Gollakota, it is much more accurate than the visual assessment by doctors.

 In the event of a sign of otitis, the parents will have to go to the doctor anyway to confirm and obtain a prescription. Shyam Gollakota likens this to the thermometer, which prevents people from going to the doctor when they have doubts about a possible fever.

Shyam Gollakota’s laboratory is full of ingenious ideas at the crossroads of mobile technologies and health. The goal is neither more nor less “to solve some of the biggest health problems of today  ” at a low cost. For example, the team created an application that detects sleep apnea and another that warns relatives of someone who appears to have an opioid overdose.

For otitis, Professor Gollakota is counting on an authorization from the US health authorities by the end of the year, and an online application in the first quarter of 2020.