SEATTLE — University of Washington researchers have developed a smart phone app that can detect ear infections in young kids.

Computer science doctoral student Justin Chan, UW School of Medicine surgical resident Dr. Sharat Raju, associate computer sciences professor Shyam Gollakota and UW assistant professor Dr. Randall Bly began developing the app about a year ago.

The app can detect fluid build-up behind a child's eardrum with sound technology.

Users are instructed to attach a paper cone to the base of their phone and stick it into their child’s ear.

“Designing an accurate screening tool on something as ubiquitous as a smartphone can be game changing for parent,s as well as health care providers in resource limited regions,” Gollakota said. “A key advantage of our technology is that it does not require any additional hardware other than a piece of paper and a software app running on the smartphone.”

The app releases different chirping sounds, which can detect whether fluid build-up is present in the child’s ear.

"Ear infections are the leading cause of pediatric health care visits today and this often occurs because of ear fluid that occurs behind the eardrum and fluid actually shows up in about 80 percent of children at some point," Chan said.

"This can lead to symptoms like hearing loss, and developmental delay, and we wanted to design technology that could be accessible to a large audience (and) also be as accurate as specialist tools," he added.

Chan said the process is much like tapping a wine glass. You will hear different sounds depending on how full the glass is and how much liquid is inside.

Right now, the team is continuing clinical testing and hopes to have the app approved by the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.

Chan said the group members have also started a company called "Edus Health" and are trying to partner with doctors in developing countries to make sure people throughout the world have access to the app.

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