Who are we?
First off, we are parents and family members of people with ear concerns. The project was started by a pediatric otolaryngologist (doctor for ear, nose, and throat conditions). The team also includes computer scientists and machine learning experts, as well as other healthcare providers and parents.
What is the site for?
The site is meant to serve two purposes. First we hope to provide people without medical backgrounds clear information about ears and ear disease. The initial idea was to help parents better understand why their children are getting ear infections. But people of all ages have ear concerns, and we hope to provide information for everyone.
Second, our goal is to develop a tool that you can use at home to look at the ear and understand what you’re looking at. This is the citizen science we hope to encourage. We have a working model that uses ear images and machine learning to determine the health status of an individual’s ear, but our tool needs more experience before we’re confident enough to have you rely on it.
What is citizen science?
We think of citizen science as collaborative studies between professionals and the general public, to better understand ourselves and our environment. It is science not just done by private (for profit) industry, the government or ivory tower academic institutions but rather science done by you. It is a way to allow large numbers of capable people to work together and to have a voice on what is important to them. When we engage private citizens in science, everyone benefits. We are now in an era where meaningful science can be done not just by large academic institutions, but also at home by you. All you have to do is be engaged and curious. Citizen science projects that we really like (and have participated in ourselves!) include iNaturalist and Planet Hunters TESS.
What about privacy?
In today’s world, data privacy is a huge concern. This project is completely voluntary. More importantly, the only information we are looking for in this project is non-identifiable. Submitted images or videos do not need to include any recognizable features. The only way someone could link your ear drum to you is if you let them look down your ear. We do not require your real name, or other information that could be used to identify or track you. That being said, we are looking for quality, so the more information you are willing to provide, the more helpful and useful tool we can build.
What are words you live by?
A question parents often ask is: What would you do if it were your child? We always try to keep that in mind and remind ourselves that our goal in the end is to help people.
What’s in it for me?
We hope that you’ll learn more about ear infections and ear health. Everyone wants to feel like they are making informed decisions – particularly when it relates to their health. We hope this tool and the resources on this site allow you to feel more comfortable and in turn confident with your ear health. We also hope you enjoy the idea that photos of your ear drum will help others feel better about making decisions about their own ear health.
Is this safe?
Placing anything in the ear can lead to damage or trauma, and anyone using an endoscope needs to take great care when doing so. Trauma to the ear canal and ear drum could lead to serious infection, scarring, ear drum rupture, CSF leak or permanent hearing loss. So please be careful. If your child is moving or incapable of staying still for you to use an endoscope in a safe manner, don’t use one.
All that being said, if the endoscope is used properly (please see manufacturers instructions when applicable) you should not cause trauma. A few tips to avoid trauma include:
- Make sure you actively watch the placement of the endoscope while it is being used
- Brace your hand using the endoscope on the surrounding head to give you additional control
- Never touch the ear drum
- If you are concerned you have inserted the endoscope to far, or caused trauma, seek immediate medical attention.
- Do not push ear wax further down the ear canal, this could require removal by a health care professional