Five out of six children will develop painful ear infections by their third birthday.

Their eustachian tubes connecting the ear to the back of the nose are underdeveloped, requiring artificial drainage tubes.

“They, basically, are ventilating the middle ear space. So, you create a hole in the eardrum, you place a tube in that’s keeping that hole open and that allows it to ventilate the middle ear and remove any fluid that might be behind the ear,” said Aaron Moberly, MD, Professor of Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Ear infections are painful and can cause hearing loss and speech delays. Otoscopes have been in use for decades but lack proper lighting and a clear field of view.

That’s why Dr. Moberly is turning to creating artificial intelligence to record and analyze eardrum videos.

“The software then takes that, creates a composite image but then also provides some feedback back to the clinician and says, ‘This is a 90% chance that this isn’t a normal-looking ear, or this is a 75% chance that there’s fluid behind the eardrum,'” said Dr. Moberly.

The AI algorithm will use deep learning to identify and classify middle ear disease with greater accuracy. This should prevent long-term hearing loss and improve speech and language development.