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The stethoscope is probably the most valuable and emblematic medical device. It is the symbol of medical professionals for a reason. Listening to the body sounds is often the first step in establishing diagnostics.
It can become difficult for hard-of-hearing physicians to practice their art, whether for listening to the heart, lungs, or bowel movements. This is because amplified stethoscopes rely on digital audio signal processing to increase their output or limit the disturbances generated by the background noises.
When doing auscultation, it is not only necessary to have a high degree of clinical proficiency, but it is furthermore necessary to have ideal listening circumstances for the practitioner to hear what needs to be heard and establish a differential diagnosis.
This article will guide you through the benefits of amplified stethoscopes and what options you should consider when hearing a murmur becomes a real challenge.
Amplified Stethoscopes in a nutshell?
At the core, digital stethoscopes operate in the same way traditional acoustic stethoscopes do. The only difference between the two is that electronic stethoscopes are battery-operated devices and rely on a microphone and electronic components to enhance body sounds and make them easier to detect.
Some acoustic stethoscopes can be used with a hearing aid. Somehow, the heart and breath sounds are mainly in the low-frequency ranges (up to 650 Hz). Unfortunately, it is common for hearing aids not to be programmed to amplify these frequencies by default, which means that dedicated software may be needed to augment low-frequency sounds adequately.
In some instances, medical professionals with slight hearing loss may choose to use an amplified stethoscope instead of wearing hearing aids, or they may choose to remove their hearing aids while using their stethoscope.
Are Amplified Stethoscopes compatible with Cochlear Implants?
Regular over-the-ear headphones may be connected to the Thinklabs One’s standard 3.5mm headphone connector to improve hearing. The sound processor may also be connected to the cochlear implant using a Personal Audio Cable. The Cochlear Mini-Microphone may be used to transmit wirelessly to the Cochlear Implant. The Thinklabs digital stethoscope comes with a Bluetooth transmitter receiver, which may be used in conjunction with Bluetooth receivers and headphones that have wireless capabilities.
Unfortunately, the Cardionics E-scope II does not have Bluetooth or wireless capabilities. However, connecting the sound processor to the stethoscope’s audio jack through a cable is somehow possible. Cardionics also sells a variety of headphones on their website.
Always consult an audiologist when considering using an amplified stethoscope while wearing a hearing aid
The majority of hearing aids are built with speech amplification in mind. However, as hearing aids become more sophisticated, they can also reduce undesirable noise and capture and enhance secondary sounds.
When fine-tuning your amplified stethoscope to your specific hearing aid, It is critical to collaborate with an audiologist.
Very low-frequency noises, such as individual heartbeats, are not always amplified well by hearing aids designed to detect and recognize speech in real-time. Therefore, it is critical to investigate if it is possible to adapt either the hearing aids or the stethoscopes to operate together to accomplish the desired result.
Capturing a wide range of sound frequencies requires a lot of adjusting and customizing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and we suggest consulting an audiologist or checking with the electronic stethoscope manufacturer before investing in a costly medical device that may ultimately not be compatible with your specific needs.
Best Amplified Stethoscopes for 2024
The best-amplified stethoscope is the one that will suit you best.
We recommend that you test the stethoscopes available and work with your audiologist to select the most comfortable one for you.
Thinklabs and Cardionics both provide a 30-day risk-free trial. However, it would help to get in touch with the firm to learn more about their trial periods, as they may charge you for shipping or restocking.
The 3M Littmann Core is probably one of the best digital stethoscopes available, but it may not be a good fit for your specific needs. Do not hesitate to try it before buying it.
Best for non-hearing-aid users
Medical practitioners with hearing loss who are not already wearing hearing instruments will find success in using one of the stand-alone amplified stethoscopes available on the market today. Standing alone, amplified stethoscopes are battery-operated, electronic stethoscopes mainly developed to enhance body sounds for health care workers who have hearing loss but are not already using hearing aids or other hearing aids.
In addition to the Welch Allyn Master Elite, the 3M Littmann, and the Cardionics E-Scope II are also commercially available amplified stethoscopes.
Rather than being used in conjunction with hearing equipment, these stethoscopes are meant to be used in the same manner as for regular stethoscopes, except that amplified stethoscopes provide amplification of heart and breath sounds and other noises.
Each device can switch between two listening modes: the bell mode amplifies heart sounds, which are much lower in frequency than breath sounds, and the diaphragm mode amplifies breath sounds, which are much higher in frequency than heart sounds.
Best for hearing-aid users
Suppose you are a medical practitioner already using hearing aids. In that case, you may have numerous alternatives accessible to you, albeit the extent of your options will be determined by several things, such as your training and experience.
In the first instance, prospective solutions will be determined by the exact type of hearing instrument worn by the practitioner, such as whether the hearing instrument is an open-fit BTE, a standard Behind-the-Ear (BTE), or a RITE BTE.
Second, hearing devices that are fitted with t-coils may provide extra alternatives to take into consideration.
Third, specific solutions have intrinsic limitations that may not visually appeal to the practitioner, depending on their design.
Here again, we recommend that you consult a specialized audiologist who will have all of the knowledge and expertise to best guide you in your choice of amplified stethoscopes.
Technology has made tremendous progress in recent years, and losing hearing is not the synonym for bypassing the auscultation process when examining a patient.