October 31, 2022
Newborns all over the United States Tested for hearing loss. This test is important because it helps families better understand the health of their children, but it is often not available to children in other countries because the screening device is expensive.
A team led by researchers at the University of Washington has created a new hearing screening system that uses a smartphone and low-cost earphones instead. The team tested the device on 114 patients, including 52 babies up to 6 months of age. The researchers also tested the device on pediatric patients with known hearing loss. Their instrument was performed in addition to the commercial device, and they correctly identified all hearing-impaired patients.
the team Post these results Oct 31 in Biomedical Nature Engineering.
There are huge health inequalities in the world. I grew up in a country where hearing screening is not available, in part because the screening device itself is very expensive,” the senior author said. Shyam Gollakota, UW Professor at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. “The project here is to take advantage of the proliferation of mobile devices that people around the world already own — $2 to $3 smartphones and earphones — to make newborn hearing screening accessible to everyone without sacrificing quality.”
Since babies cannot tell doctors if they can hear a particular sound, these tests rely on the mechanics of the ear.
When an external sound is played, the hair cells in the inner ear move and vibrate. The result is a very quiet sound that our instruments can pick up,” co-author said Dr. Randall Bleighassociate professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine and who practices in Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This examination is very sensitive, which means that if there is a concern about a patient’s hearing, they will be referred for a more comprehensive evaluation with a specialist.”
For the test, doctors send two different tones to the ear at the same time. Based on these tones, the hair cells in the ear vibrate and create a third tone, which is what doctors listen to.
One reason the commercial device is so expensive is that its amplifier is designed to play two tones without any interference. The University of Washington researchers have found that they can use affordable earphones — each earbud plays one of two tones — instead. The earphones are connected to a microphone in a probe that can be placed in the patient’s ear. The microphone records any sounds from the ear and sends them to the smartphone for processing.
“As you can imagine, these sounds coming out of the ear are very soft and sometimes difficult to hear due to noise in the environment or if the patient is moving their head,” said the lead author. Justin Chan, a UW doctoral student at The Allen School. “We have built algorithms on the phone that help us detect the signal even with all the background noise. These algorithms can run in real time on any smartphone and do not require the latest smartphone models.”
The researchers tested their devices at three audiology clinics in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. For each test, they tested four different frequencies, which is typical for these types of hearing examinations. The ages of the participants ranged from a few weeks to 20 years.
The team is now working with collaborators to use this tool as part of a newborn hearing screening project in Kenya. The researchers collaborated with a group from the Department of Global Health at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Nairobi, and the Kenya Ministry of Health to create a project “Towards Global Hearing Screening for Newborns and Early Childhood in Kenya,” or Tune.
“Right now, this is a prototype that we created. The next challenge is really to scale this up and then work with local experts in each country who are most familiar with the specific challenges in each situation,” Chan said. “We have an opportunity to really impact global health, especially for newborns. . I think it’s gratifying to know that the research we’re doing can help solve real problems head on.”
Additional co-authors of this paper are Nada AliResident in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Ali Najafiwho worked on this project as a UW doctoral student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Anna Meehanclinical research coordinator at Seattle Children’s. Lisa Mansell, UW Affiliate Instructor in Speech and Hearing Sciences; And the Dr. Emily GallagherAnd the Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and practiced medicine in Seattle Children’s. This research was funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the Washington Research Foundation, the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the Seattle Children’s Research Center, and the Experimental Awards Support Fund Program, Moore Inventor Award The National Science Foundation.
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Grant numbers: T32DC000018, 10617
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