First-of-its-Kind Smartphone App Can 'Hear' Ear Infections in Children

According to the National Institutes of Health, ear infections are the most common reason parents bring their children to the doctor. The condition occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear behind the eardrum and is infected. Now, researchers at the University of Washington  have created a new smartphone app that can detect fluid behind the eardrum by simply using a piece of paper shaped into a funnel and a smartphone’s microphone and speaker. The system sends a soft acoustic chirp into the ear canal using the smartphone speaker, and detects reflected sound from the eardrum using the smartphone microphone. The paper funnel helps guide sound waves in and out of the ear canal. Depending on whether there’s fluid inside, the reflected sound waves interfere with the original chirp sound waves differently. The app determines the likelihood of fluid present with a probability of detection of 85%.