clearn.png
Tuesday July 16th, 2019 10:34PM

Using a smartphone to sound out sign of kids' ear infections

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Researchers have created a way for a smartphone to "hear" a warning sign of ear infections — fluid buildup behind the eardrum.

If it pans out, parents might one day check their tots' ears at home simply using a phone app and "stuff you have around the house — paper, tape and scissors," said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Sharat Raju of the University of Washington.

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for pediatrician visits. Even if there's no infection, fluid that builds up in the middle ear still can be painful and sometimes can muffle hearing enough to affect speech development.

Diagnosis is difficult. Usually a pediatrician will peek into the child's ear to see if the eardrum is inflamed, and parents can buy devices that use cameras to do the same thing. But ear specialists tend to use pricier, more complex tests that measure if the eardrum is pliable enough to vibrate correctly in response to sound, or is stiff from the pressure of fluid behind it.

A team of engineers and doctors at the University of Washington developed a simple smartphone approach for acoustic testing: Cut a piece of paper, fold it into a funnel shape and tape it around the phone's microphone and speakers. Aim the funnel at the ear canal to focus sound. An experimental app beams in birdlike chirps, at a specific frequency. The microphone detects sound waves bouncing off the eardrum.

The app analyzes that echo, a broad-spectrum vibration from a healthy eardrum. Pus or uninfected fluid alters the eardrum's mobility and changes the reflected sound. The app sends a text saying whether it's likely that middle-ear fluid is present — one piece of information, along with other symptoms, that might be used for diagnosis.

"This type of technology could potentially avoid needless doctor visits," said Dr. Justin Golub, a Columbia University ear specialist who wasn't involved with the research. Golub often sees patients with suspected ear infections who don't actually have one. He called the tool's accuracy "quite impressive."

Researchers tested the system on 98 ears, in children older than 18 months who were about to undergo surgery at Seattle Children's Hospital. Half were having ear tubes implanted, so doctors could tell exactly how much fluid was present to compare with the smartphone results. The system detected fluid as well or better than specialized acoustic testing devices, the team reported Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A smaller test showed similar results as young as 9 months. And in a separate experiment involving 25 kids' ears, parents used the smartphone to check for fluid just as well as doctors did.

"Examining ears is difficult," and better tools are needed for doctors, too, said Dr. Alejandro Hoberman, pediatrics chief at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, who also wasn't part of the research.

But just because there's fluid present doesn't mean it's infected — and Hoberman worried that at-home use of such a device "may alarm parents" and pressure doctors to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics.

Dr. Randall Bly, a University of Washington ear specialist and study co-author, says the smartphone approach is a bit like using a thermometer in deciding when to call a doctor. If it finds no sign of fluid, "then you can be pretty confident the fever or whatever is probably not related to an ear infection," he explained.

But lots of children have persistent ear fluid without infections — and they're supposed to be tracked for months in deciding if they need ear tubes. At-home monitoring would be easier and cheaper than repeated doctor visits just for an ear test, added Raju, a surgical resident.

That's one reason the American Academy of Otolaryngology in 2016 called for development of at-home strategies to detect fluid buildup in the ears.

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. The university filed for a patent, and the researchers are seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to sell the app.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Health, AP Health - Children's Health, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Falco, Perrette, Chuck Lorre sitcom set for new CBS season
"The Big Bang Theory" finale has yet to air and CBS is already back in business with its creator
1:57PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US
New moves by U.S. regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S. The rising volume of calls in the last few years has created pressure on Congress, regulators and phone companies to act
1:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
TV's Sandra Lee selling home she shares with NY Gov. Cuomo
Food Network star Sandra Lee says she is selling the home in the New York City suburbs that she shares with her longtime partner, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
1:53PM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
CBS defends 'Bull' renewal after star faced misconduct claim
CBS is defending its decision to renew "Bull after a sexual harassment claim against Michael Weatherly, star of the drama 'Bull'
1:33PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Students in Colorado shooting face murder, other charges
Two students accused of opening fire at their Colorado school have appeared in court to face charges of murder, attempted murder, theft and arson
1:18PM ( 53 minutes ago )
Pelosi warns Trump against war in Mideast; Dems demand info
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warns Trump against war with Iran.
1:15PM ( 56 minutes ago )
AP National News
2020 Democrats warn Alabama portends larger abortion fight
Democratic presidential candidates are condemning Alabama's approval of a ban on nearly all abortion, and warning that Republican-controlled legislatures around the country may follow suit
12:44PM ( 1 hour ago )
Alabama ban on nearly all abortions in GOP governor's hands
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will now decide whether to sign legislation that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state
11:18AM ( 2 hours ago )
Alabama Senate passes near-total ban on abortion
Alabama's Senate passed a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday, sending what would be the nation's most stringent abortion ban to the state's Republican governor
10:17PM ( 15 hours ago )
AP Health
California to ban pesticide it says hurts babies' brains
The nation's most productive agricultural state is moving to ban a pesticide widely used to control a range of insects but blamed for harming brain development in babies
4:07PM ( 6 days ago )
California to ban pesticide said to harm child development
California plans to ban a widely used pesticide shown to harm the brains of babies
2:28PM ( 6 days ago )
Will new royal baby's name honor Princess Diana? Stay tuned
Britons love to lay down their bets _ and with the birth of a healthy baby boy for Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry, it's time to focus on boys' names
11:32AM ( 1 week ago )
AP Health - Children's Health
Falco, Perrette, Chuck Lorre sitcom set for new CBS season
"The Big Bang Theory" finale has yet to air and CBS is already back in business with its creator
1:57PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Help coming on blocking scam calls for robocall-plagued US
New moves by U.S. regulators could help thwart some of the billions of robocalls received in the U.S. The rising volume of calls in the last few years has created pressure on Congress, regulators and phone companies to act
1:56PM ( 15 minutes ago )
TV's Sandra Lee selling home she shares with NY Gov. Cuomo
Food Network star Sandra Lee says she is selling the home in the New York City suburbs that she shares with her longtime partner, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
1:53PM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: UAE diplomat says coalition will retaliate
Top UAE diplomat says the coalition will "retaliate hard" over attacks on civilian targets after Yemen rebels' drone attack on a Saudi pipeline
1:44PM ( 27 minutes ago )
The Latest: Emirati diplomat: UAE committed to de-escalation
A top Emirati diplomat says the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of oil tankers
1:34PM ( 37 minutes ago )