Diagnosis of ear infection via mobile application

Diagnosis of ear infection via mobile application

By Kristelle Bechayda

You can now find out if your child has an ear infection and decide if it warrants a visit to the doctor, thanks to a smartphone app invented by a team from the University of Washington.

In the journal which was uploaded in the Science Translational Medicine, the app was described to play a sound like that of a bird chirping into a child’s ear canal through a simple funnel that the parents can put together.

How it works

The app plays the sound for 1.2 seconds and uses the phone’s mic to listen in. If there are fluids or pus that have accumulated behind the eardrum or in the middle ear, the sound pattern of the returned echo will indicate an infection.

“The way to think about it is almost like a wine glass,” said Shyam Gollakota, who is the head of the lab that developed the project. “And if you tap on the wine glass, you’re going to get a different sound depending on the level of liquid in the wine glass.”

Gollakota added that the app had a success rate of 85 percent when it was tested on around a hundred cases, making it more accurate than a visual inspection done by a doctor.

If an infection is indeed detected, parents are advised to go to the doctor for confirmation and to also get a prescription.


Likening the app’s utility to that of a thermometer, which helps people decide whether a visit to the doctor is appropriate, Gollakota said it is just one of the several ideas being developed by him and his team.

Apart from the ear infection app, they have also built another application that help detect sleep apnea and another that warns the relatives or friends of an opioids user if they appear to be overdosing. Their team’s goal is to help resolve some of the biggest health issues today at a lower cost.

Gollakota is hoping to obtain regulatory approval for their ear infection app by the end of the year, so they can have their latest invention available in the market by early 2020.

Story and photo from AFP.