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2 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Teen Invents Headphones That Treat Ear Infections

A 14-year-old in San Diego, California, was the grand prize winner of this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Leanne Fan won the nation’s premier middle school science competition for developing Finsen Headphones. Named after Niels Finsen, the scientist who discovered that ultraviolet light can be used to treat bacterial infections, the low-cost headphone device uses machine learning and blue light therapy to detect and treat mid-ear infections in children.

The treatment could potentially prevent up to 60% of hearing loss in children. There are 700 million cases of mid-ear infections and nearly 21,000 deaths annually. Many of those impacted are children in underprivileged populations. Without medical access and or healthcare, diagnosis and treatment are often difficult. Leanne’s invention aims to provide an antibiotic free, low-cost option to detect—and treat—any mid-ear infection.

While its infection treating capabilities are impressive, Fan says her headphones are equally impressive at playing music. Leanne worked with her assigned mentor—Dr. Ross Behling, a research specialist in 3M’s material laboratory—to transform her idea from concept to prototype.
The teen won a $25,000 cash prize, a special destination trip, and the prestigious title of “America’s Top Young Scientist”. She is planning to use some of the prize money to start the patent process for the headphones.

Fan said it’s a convenient way to treat children. Headphones are familiar, easy-to-wear devices, so children are less likely to feel scared or anxious. In addition, they can even listen to music during the treatment. The 9th grader says phototherapy is her favorite invention and she hopes the invention will help children in poverty stricken areas receive treatment they otherwise would not have access to.

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