New phone device can diagnose ear disorders
It could cut costs for diagnosis of potentially serious problems but faces hurdles
PHOTO : DENNIS WISE / UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
“ There was significant agreement — roughly 86 % — between the results of the two screening methods .”
Scientists in the �S have developed an affordable system attached to smartphones that can replace costly equipment used to detect ear problems .
The pricey item is called a tympanometer , a common tool found in the offices of most ear specialists . �t ’ s used to e�amine middle ear functions and help diagnose other potential problems that can lead to hearing loss if left untreated . �ts cost , however , ranges between �S�� , ��� to �S�� , ��� , making it prohibitively e�pensive in many areas with limited healthcare funds .
�nter the new technology , which makes the same diagnostic approach feasible with just a �S��� system that simply requires a budget smartphone , the researchers wrote in Nature .
�Conventional desktop tympanometry is e�pensive , bulky , and requires a source of wall power , which makes it less than ideal for use in mobile clinics and rural communities . Consequently , in some areas , people may have to travel long distances to obtain a test — if they are able to travel , that is ,” said lead author Justin Chan , a PhD student at the �aul � . Allen School of Computer Science � Engineering at the University of Washington ( UW ), in a press release . “ Our open-source system is ine�pensive , portable , easy to use , and works with any Android smartphone . �
The researchers tested the new device on �� patients between one and 20 years of age who also underwent a standard tympanometry to compare their e�perimental approach with the established diagnostic method .
�There was significant agreement � roughly
86 % — between the results of the two screening methods . Most importantly , when there was an abnormal finding such as a Type � tympanogram , there was 100 % agreement . Our goal was to develop an accessible device that can accurately assess the middle ear , providing clinicians critical diagnostic information . These results show promise towards achieving this goal , � co�senior author �r �andall �ly , an assistant professor at UW Medicine ’ s Department of Otolaryngology , said in a press release .
�ut one potential drawback , the e�perts told STAT , is that the technology could only go into widespread use if there were enough specialists trained to use it and treat any ear problem detected with it , adding that the device would not be able to close the gaps in care by itself as other e�pensive diagnostic tools , like audiometers and electroencephalograms , were also needed for comprehensive ear screening .
��ut the equipment is not there , so that becomes the limitation , � said Titus �bekwe , head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Abuja in �igeria .
The �orld Health �rgani�ation estimates that about 1.5 billion people , or roughly 20 percent of the world ’ s population , live with hearing loss and 430 million have disabling hearing loss . About �� million children have deafness or hearing loss , which can be prevented in 60 percent of cases by screening and early management of otitis media , an inflammatory disease of the middle ear . �mproving immunisations for rubella and meningitis , along with better maternal and neonatal care , can also go a long way in helping prevent hearing loss .
34 JULY 2022 GlobalHealthAsiaPacific . com