Researchers have developed a new way of imaging the middle ear using infrared light, which they say could provide much more accurate diagnosis of ear infections.

A new device could greatly improve doctors’ ability to accurately diagnose ear infections. The new device, whose design is still being refined by the team, is expected ultimately to look and function very much like existing otoscopes, the devices most doctors currently use to peer inside the ear to look for signs of infection.

The one clear diagnostic sign of an infection in the ear is a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum, but a conventional otoscope can’t penetrate deeply enough into the tissues to reveal such buildups. But unlike the otoscope, which use visible light and can only see a few millimeters into the tissues of the ear, the new device instead uses shortwave infrared light, which can penetrate much deeper. The new device is easy to use and does not require extensive training.