Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a small hearing test for newborns. In the past, the equipment for these tests was very expensive. Since newborns can’t tell if they hear anything, the test is based on making noises in the ear canal and then listening to the vibrations created by special hair cells. internal.
The UW researchers used small probes connected to a small microphone that could listen to the vibrations of the hair cells. The smartphone app analyzes the sounds and can lead to a visit to a specialist if there are negative results.
It is important to do a hearing test with new children to make sure they get the support they need if a hearing problem is found. However, in many parts of the world, people do not have access to the testing equipment needed for these procedures.
“There is a lot of health damage in the world. I grew up in a country where there was no hearing screening, because the screening tool was very expensive,” says Shyam Gollakota, one of the founders of the technology. “The idea here is to use the many mobile devices that people around the world have — smartphones and $2 to $3 earbuds — to create a hearing screening for newborns that is something that is accessible to all without losing quality.”
The oldest way to test the hearing of newborns is to make sounds in the ear with two different tones. This causes the hair cells in the ear to vibrate, creating a third tone. Devices listen for this third tone to interpret test results. However, the old equipment used to perform this technique is very expensive, as its speakers must be able to play two different sounds without interfering.
The researchers turned to inexpensive sensors instead, allowing each speaker to play a different sound. The headphones are also attached to a small microphone that can listen for the sound returning from the hair follicles, and the smartphone app uses algorithms to analyze the results, reducing the effects of background noise. and interference.
“As you can imagine, these sounds coming from the ear are very simple, and sometimes they can be difficult to hear due to the noise in the environment, if the patient’s head is moving,” he said. Justin Chan, another researcher involved in the project. “We built algorithms on the phone to help us detect the signal despite all the background noise. These algorithms can run in real time on a smartphone without needing new smartphone models.
Study in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering: An off-the-shelf otoacoustic-emission probe for smartphone-based hearing screening
Via: University of Washington