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Is My Cough COVID-19?

The Hyfe Mind


August 12, 2021
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.

The Covid-19 pandemic spread primarily through the dispersion of droplets containing the virus through expulsions such as coughs or sneezes.

Testing Failed to Overtake the COVID-19 Spread

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that humanity was unprepared. Concretely, we lacked the means to test the population reliably and quickly enough to contain the spread of the virus. We knew, though, that people with Covid-19 had specific symptoms, cough being a primary symptom.

As a result, the virus SARS-CoV-2 spread worldwide, from nation to nation, from city to city. Essentially, it seemed to spread at the rate people would get COVID-19 and breath or cough the virus onto others.

To sum it up, the virus seemed several steps ahead of our capacity to test the population, identify and contain outbreaks.

The standard means of testing adopted worldwide during the pandemic has been real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

RT-PCR was insufficient to contain the pandemic. Although it provides reliable test results, RT-PCR had three major shortcomings:

  • Costly - Requires expensive chemical reagents, devices, and expert personnel.
  • Time-consuming - The results typically take 2 to 48 hours.
  • Unsafe sample collection - social distancing has to be violated to collect samples, thus risking contagion.

AI-Powered Point-of-Care Testing for COVID-19 Through Cough

The potential payoff of implementing rapid point-of-care tests (POCT) is immense. For instance, it could reduce unnecessary contact with healthcare professionals. Most importantly humanity would possess practical tools for outbreak detection and containment. that  could be immense. In essence, it is a technology that can save lives.

Recently, larger datasets have become available. Simultaneously, reliable machine learning algorithms are a reality. And finally, the smartphone has become widely accessible.

As a result, this combination of data, code, and tech is the perfect storm to make POCT a reality. Most importantly, it can increase the power of diagnostic and disease stratification efforts.

In short, consider the two following statements:

On the one hand, doctors routinely use audio signals – such as breath sounds during auscultation – as a tool to diagnose diseases or monitor their progression. And have been doing so pretty much since the dawn of the medical field.

On the other hand, the typical symptoms of COVID-19 include cough and breathing difficulties.

As a result, combining both facts mentioned above implies there is potential to use the power of information technology to give healthcare professionals some help.

COVID-19 Cough Acoustic Epidemiology: The DiCOVA Challenge

Several research teams and industry groups worldwide are working to achieve an accurate COVID-19 diagnostic tool. Such a tool would analyze the sound of a forced cough with a specialized algorithm developed by machine learning.

For instance, an exceptionally high moment of this effort happened during early 2021 in the DiCOVA (Diagnostics of COVID-19 using Acoustics) challenge. In short, the main goals of this challenge were twofold:

Firstly, to provide a benchmark for monitoring the progress in acoustic-based diagnostics of COVID-19.

Secondly, to challenge speech and audio researchers with a problem they can solve with their particular set of skills. Moreover, a challenge that is of immediate societal relevance.

Additionally, a more ambitious goal was to achieve the requirements defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Specifically, the WHO stated that a sensitivity of 70% (at a specificity of 95%) is necessary for a proper POCT tool.

The DiCOVA challenge in a nutshell

Firstly, teams competed to develop the best possible classification system to diagnose COVID-19 by analyzing acoustic biomarkers. Secondly, these biomarkers consisted mainly of cough recording features. Thirdly the challenge used data from a public dataset named Coswara. Finally, the team's tracked their results on a digital leaderboard that operated in near-real-time.

In conclusion, not even the highest-scoring team reached the criteria at the end of the challenge. However, a fusion of the four top-scoring teams achieved the WHO's benchmark by a relatively small margin, with a sensitivity of 70.73%.

This Cough-Interpreting AI vs. COVID-19 Story Is Not Over Yet

The DiCOVA challenge demonstrated an incredible concept. Namely, the idea of using machine learning algorithms to diagnose acoustic biomarkers to result in a practical POCT. If validated, such technology would indeed be a game-changer. Essentially, it can aid humanity’s fight against pandemics and respiratory diseases in general.

The researchers who participated in the DiCOVA challenge presented their works at the DiCOVA Special Session, at the Interspeech 2021 conference. Here is a page that summarizes their results.

A Question Easier to Answer: "Is my Cough COVID-19?"

What if anyone with a smartphone could quickly tell if their cough sounds like they have COVID-19? In short, could you think of a nobler use of the smartphone?

With such technology, a citizen can answer the question:

Is my cough COVID-19?

We are not there, yet.


  1. Meister JA, Nguyen KA, Luo Z. Audio feature ranking for sound-based COVID-19 patient detection. arXiv:210407128 [cs, eess]. Published online April 14, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2021. http://arxiv.org/abs/2104.07128
  2. Pahar M, Klopper M, Warren R, Niesler T. COVID-19 cough classification using machine learning and global smartphone recordings. Computers in Biology and Medicine. 2021;135:104572. doi:10.1016/j.compbiomed.2021.104572
  3. Sadiq F, Masood K, Muhammad A, Riaz Khan A. Screening of COVID-19 using Cough Audio Frequencies. IJATCSE. 2021;10(3):1851-1861. doi:10.30534/ijatcse/2021/511032021
  4. Sharma N, Krishnan P, Kumar R, et al. Coswara — A Database of Breathing, Cough, and Voice Sounds for COVID-19 Diagnosis. In: Interspeech 2020. ISCA; 2020:4811-4815. doi:10.21437/Interspeech.2020-2768
  5. Sharma NK, Muguli A, Krishnan P, Kumar R, Chetupalli SR, Ganapathy S. Towards sound based testing of COVID-19 -- Summary of the first Diagnostics of COVID-19 using Acoustics (DiCOVA) Challenge. arXiv:210610997 [cs, eess]. Published online June 21, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2021. http://arxiv.org/abs/2106.10997
  6. Topol EJ. Is my cough COVID-19? Lancet. 2020;396(10266):1874. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32589-7
  7. WHO Target Product Profiles for COVID-19 Diagnostics. World Health Organization; 2020

Your Cough Matters

Based on our results in Google Play & App Store
  • Excellent, insightful
    By dust mite dan - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    This app is easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and has provided me with useful information about my cough and disease patterns that have improved my overall health!

    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great app!
    by Imtfx0019 — Dec 6, 2022 - App Store
    Impressed with how well it detected my coughs, even very slight ones.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • App is Great!
    by HBert Quach — Jan 22, 2023, - Google Play
    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
    Try CoughPro for Free
  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

    Try CoughPro for Free

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