Smartphone and Cheap Earbuds for Accessible Newborn Hearing Test

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a low-cost hearing test for newborns. Traditionally, the equipment for such testing is quite expensive. Because newborns can’t tell us if they can hear anything, the test is based on creating a noise inside the ear canal and then listening to the vibrations produced by specific hair cells.

The UW researchers used inexpensive earbuds attached to a tiny microphone that could listen to the vibrations of hair cells. A smartphone app then analyzes the sounds and can provide guidance to see a specialist if abnormal results are found.

Hearing tests with newborns are important to ensure they get the support they need if they are found to have a hearing problem. However, in many places in the world, people do not have access to the testing equipment needed for these procedures.

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“There is a huge amount of health inequality in the world. I grew up in a country where hearing screening was not available, partly because the screening device itself is quite expensive,” said Shyam Goulakota, one of the developers of the technology. one of the. “The project here is to take advantage of the ubiquity of mobile devices people around the world already have — smartphones and $2 to $3 earbuds — to make newborn hearing screening accessible to everyone without sacrificing quality. Be accessible.”

The traditional method of testing a newborn’s hearing is to produce sounds in two different tones in the ear. This causes the hair cells in the ear to vibrate, creating the third tone. The equipment listens to this third tone to interpret the test results. However, the traditional equipment used to perform this procedure is very expensive, in part because its speakers must be able to play two different tones without interference.

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These researchers turned to inexpensive earbuds as an alternative and allowed each earbud to play a different tone. The earbuds are also attached to a tiny microphone that can listen to the sound coming back from the hair cells, and the smartphone app uses algorithms to analyze the results and reduce the effects of background noise and interference.

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“As you can imagine, these sounds coming out of the ear are very soft, and sometimes they can be difficult to hear because of ambient noise or if the patient is shaking their head,” said Justin Chen, Another researcher involved. Project “We designed algorithms on the phone that help us detect the signal despite all that background noise. These algorithms can run in real time on any smartphone and require the latest smartphone models. do not have.

Study in a journal. Nature Biomedical Engineering: An off-the-shelf otoacoustic-emission probe for hearing screening via smartphone

By: University of Washington


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