Quantifying ear deformity using linear measurements and mathematical modeling is difficult due to the ear’s complex shape. Machine learning techniques, such as convolutional neural networks (CNNs), are well-suited for this role. CNNs are deep learning methods capable of finding complex patterns from medical images, automatically building solution models capable of machine diagnosis. In this study, we applied CNN to automatically identify ear deformity from 2D photographs. Institutional review board (IRB) approval was obtained for this retrospective study to train and test the CNNs. Photographs of patients with and without ear deformity were obtained as standard of care in our photography studio. Profile photographs were obtained for one or both ears. A total of 671 profile pictures were used in this study including: 457 photographs of patients with ear deformity and 214 photographs of patients with normal ears. Photographs were cropped to the ear boundary and randomly divided into training (60%), validation (20%), and testing (20%) datasets. We modified the softmax classifier in the last layer in GoogLeNet, a deep CNN, to generate an ear deformity detection model in Matlab. All images were deemed of high quality and usable for training and testing. It took about 2 hours to train the system and the training accuracy reached almost 100%. The test accuracy was about 94.1%. We demonstrate that deep learning has a great potential in identifying ear deformity. These machine learning techniques hold the promise in being used in the future to evaluate treatment outcomes.
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