Uncertainty-Aware COVID-19 Detection from Imbalanced Sound Data

Recently, sound-based COVID-19 detection studies have shown great promise to achieve scalable and prompt digital pre-screening. However, there are still two unsolved issues hindering the practice. First, collected datasets for model training are often imbalanced, with a considerably smaller proportion of users tested positive, making it harder to learn representative and robust features. Second, deep learning models are generally overconfident in their predictions. Clinically, false predictions aggravate healthcare costs. Estimation of the uncertainty of screening would aid this. To handle these issues, we propose an ensemble framework where multiple deep learning models for sound-based COVID-19 detection are developed from different but balanced subsets from original data. As such, data are utilized more effectively compared to traditional up-sampling and down-sampling approaches: an AUC of 0.74 with a sensitivity of 0.68 and a specificity of 0.69 is achieved. Simultaneously, we estimate uncertainty from the disagreement across multiple models. It is shown that false predictions often yield higher uncertainty, enabling us to suggest the users with certainty higher than a threshold to repeat the audio test on their phones or to take clinical tests if digital diagnosis still fails. This study paves the way for a more robust sound-based COVID-19 automated screening system.

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