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The desire to become a healthcare professional often starts at a young age when experiencing the wonders of nature and the human body.
I still remember looking through my grandfather’s old Zeiss microscope and observing the amoebas swimming in the liquid sample collected in my own made spinach culture. Then I became obsessed with my dad’s stethoscope and sphygmomanometer.
The Stemoscope is one of these devices that have the potential to seed medical vocations in the heart of toddlers and teenagers.
Last update on 2022-10-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
In a nutshell, the stemoscope is a digital stethoscope explicitly designed to bring nature’s sounds to STEM classes students, nature lovers, or anybody interested in science.
When we say digital stethoscope, it is critical to understand that the Stemoscope is not FDA cleared, is not a medical stethoscope, and should not be used in healthcare settings. Do not expect to use it to replace your Littmann Cardiology IV anytime soon.
The stemoscope development was initially financed by a Kickstarter campaign, followed by an Indiegogo one to develop an FDA-approved version renamed Stemoscope Pro and target healthcare professionals.
On Kickstarter and INDIEGOGO, more than 4,000 backers contributed to the successful crowdfunding of the standard version of the Stemoscope. That version enables everyone to listen to the sound of life for various reasons, including STEM education, enjoyment, and a variety of other activities.
How does the stemoscope work?
The stemoscope can not be compared to traditional stethoscopes. However, its circular form factor makes it unique. Lightweight at just 30 g and with a diameter of 38 mm (1.5″), the Stemoscope includes a 50 mAh Rechargeable Li-Ion rechargeable battery that offers up to 5 hours of continuous usage.
Forgotten the earpieces and uncomfortable ear tips, the gadget relies on Bluetooth to connect to its dedicated Smartphone App available for iOS and Android. The App includes clear-to-understand drawings that will help position the stemoscope to the appropriate areas of the human or animal bodies.
It is also possible to use it as an obstetric stethoscope and listen to the sounds of the unborn child. The App allows recording the sounds and built a library of body sounds that can be shared or kept for later comparisons.
Connecting your smartphone to the wireless headset while your smartphone is linked to the Stemoscope through Bluetooth will allow you to enjoy the actual wireless stethoscope experience in real-time.
What are the differences between the standard stemoscope and the pro version?
Suppose the stemoscope Bluetooth stethoscope (should we call it a pod) technical specificities are well suited for discovering the sounds of life and nature. However, it is not designed to be used as a medical stethoscope, limiting its use to nonprofessional environments.
The Stemoscope Pro is aimed at bridging this gap. It is planned to come with three wireless modes (I: connect to Bluetooth earphones, II: connect to the App with Bluetooth 5, and III: direct pairing with smartphones) and advanced noise-canceling. Forget the App as the Stemoscope Pro transfers the auscultatory sounds directly to Bluetooth earbuds or hearing aids, eliminating the need for a separate receiver.
With a diameter of 42mm and a weight of just 60g, the Stemoscope Pro is built of stainless steel and glass. It offers an audio range frequency of 20-2000 Hz that should suit the needs of healthcare professionals.
Its 80 mAh Li-ion polymer battery allows 2 hours of continuous listening per charge which should be more than enough to accommodate several days of standard auscultation….considering that it switches off automatically, of course.
Initially planned to be released in 2021, the Stemoscope Pro suffered some delays in its development. On Feb 19, 2022, the team announced that they submitted a 510(K) to the FDA, one of the mandatory steps to obtain medical device clearance in the USA.
The Stemoscope Pro aimed for a retail price of $299, putting the device close to other premium digital stethoscopes such as the 3M Littmann Core Digital stethoscope. Is this price justified? This question will need to be answered when the production version is available. Our gut feeling is that despite the impressive technical specificities announced. It will be hard to compare a crowdfunded project with the flagship product of one of the most reputable stethoscopes makers, namely 3M Littmann, combined with the expertise of Core in digital acoustic processing. Time only will tell.
The FDA clearance process should take a couple of months, and we can expect to finally meet the Stemoscope Pro by the second half of 2022.
Is the stemoscope worth it?
As mentioned, the stemoscope is not a medical device and should be considered for educational purposes only. However, it somehow doesn’t mean that it is a cheaply made device that does not bring value to the users.
During STEM classes, it can change the way students perceive the sounds of nature and the body. We consider it especially useful for teenagers to train their ears and gradually build their interest in medicine and biology. The stemoscope is a convenient device for listening to your own heart or lung sounds. It can even be used on pets for aspiring veterinarians.
The Stemoscope Pro is a different animal and aims for healthcare professionals. With the ability to share audiograms, we can see the value of this simple device when used in remote environments or telemedicine settings.
Even if the Stemoscope Pro has a lot to offer and can even be cleaned by submerging it in alcohol (we do not recommend though), its expected price is close to the best digital stethoscopes currently available, and we suspect that it will have to prove its benefits to justify the investment. Nevertheless, we look forward to testing the Pro version and will let you know our ultimate thoughts about it.