BOSTON (CBS) – What if you could diagnose your child’s ear infection in the comfort of your own home? Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a smartphone app that may be able help.

An ear infection usually begins with fluid buildup behind the eardrum, which then becomes contaminated with bacteria, causing pain and often fever. Sometimes fluid builds up and doesn’t cause pain but can impair hearing and affect language development.

Now, researchers have created a smartphone app that can detect fluid behind the eardrum by sending a series of chirps through a small paper funnel into the ear. The chirps are reflected back to the phone differently depending on whether fluid is present or not. In a study where it was used on 98 kids’ ears, the app correctly identified fluid about 85% of the time, even when used by parents.

One day, parents might be able to use this app to screen their own children at home to help determine whether they need to be seen by their pediatrician or not.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

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