|What if listening to your favorite music could help identify and cure ear infections? Well, after watching her older sister win an award in the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, that’s exactly what Leanne Fan worked out how to do.
The 14-year-old from Westview High in San Diego was recently named America’s Top Young Scientist for working out how to use blue light therapy in headphones to identify middle ear infections. Through this incredible breakthrough, the young scientist could help prevent millions of children from experiencing hearing loss.
The reason Fan wanted to focus on middle ear infections (or in scientific terms, otitis media) is because both she and her mother suffer from them. In fact, there are as many as 700 million cases globally each year, but it’s a lot harder to diagnose and treat than you’d think, especially in children in areas with limited access to healthcare. If left untreated, this kind of infection can cause full hearing loss.
So how do you find a solution to this problem? Easy, Fan thought. Create a device that’s inexpensive, easy to transport, and simple enough for kids to use. Enter the blue light Finsen headphones. The idea is relatively simple: the headphones are two in one. First, the headphones connect with a Google machine that compares images of the ear, searching for infection. This is the diagnosis. If an infection is confirmed, the headphones then use blue light to treat the infection without damaging healthy cells. The most exciting thing? The headphones actually work to play music, meaning kids can listen to their favorite tunes while their ear health is being assessed.
Speaking about her invention, Fan said, “Healthcare should be available to everyone.”
These headphones are a breakthrough, not only for showcasing the talented young minds of America but also for children everywhere. The Finsen headphones are named after Niels Finsen, who famously used light to treat skin diseases. Now Fan is taking it a step further. Who knows where else the young minds of tomorrow may take us?