Electronic Stethoscope Buying Guide – Working, Features and Benifits

We have seen tremendous progress in healthcare over the years, including the prevention, detection, and diagnosis of illnesses.

Despite this, one of the most vital tools we use to monitor health had been unchanged for years. But now it is being renewed. Yes, you got it right, we are talking about electronic spectroscopes!

Electronic stethoscopes offer incredible capabilities and benefits and are the wave of the future. By amplifying body sounds electronically, they overcome low sound levels.

The other advantages of electronic stethoscopes include self-amplification, higher sensitivity, and self-sound detection.

Based on all these features, it is clear that electronic stethoscopes have arrived and are here to stay. 

Those with the extra money should seriously consider investing in one. Below is all the information you need to know:

What Is An Electronic Stethoscope?

Electronic stethoscopes are a second-generation, patented technology that enables users to record heart and lung sounds. This is the newer, more advanced version of stethoscopes used by doctors. 

The chest piece of an electronic stethoscope converts the acoustic sound waves into electrical signals, which are conveyed to the listening device through circuitry specially designed for best listening. 

It Converts Body Sounds to Electrical Signals

Because the technology is so new, each model operates in a slightly different manner. Nonetheless, electronic stethoscopes are different from standard stethoscopes because they use electronic technology for collecting, transmitting, and amplifying sound.

The Microphone on the body collects acoustic sound waves, which are then converted into electrical signals. Sound can thereby be encoded, decoded, manipulated, and amplified.

Compatible with Recording Devices

Electronic stethoscopes connect to headphones or to a recording device, which can be worn while listening. Electronic stethoscopes produce a different sound from traditional stethoscopes, which is noticeable to most clinicians. 

Some people cannot use electronic stethoscopes because of the “electronic” sounds, whereas others can quickly accommodate and successfully use the instrument.

Categories of Electronic Stethoscopes

Electronic stethoscopes are available today in many general categories: standard acoustic, amplifying, and digitizing. However, amplification and digitization are the two broad categories of electronic stethoscopes widely used by professionals across the globe.

Digitalizing Stethoscope

Most electronic stethoscopes on the market offer a digital signal, so they are called “digitalizing stethoscopes.” It is possible to transfer audio data serialized from a stethoscope in both real-time (synchronously) and a store-and-forward manner (asynchronously). 

Essentially, these devices work by capturing audio through an electronic stethoscope sensing device, converting the energy emitted by the sound into electricity, which can be amplified, filtered, and stored. Finally, the data converts from analog to digital.

Amplifying Stethoscope

On the market, the majority of electronic stethoscopes have a stereo or mono output connection that, using the appropriate stereo/mono cable, can be used to send real-time audio data collected by the stethoscope to an accompanying computer program. 

Algorithm-Based Analysis

There are several algorithms designed for interpreting and diagnosing the audio output of the electronic stethoscopes using accompanying software. Audio output is processed in various ways to save accompanying software solutions as files and send them via e-mail and other communication methods to be assessed and diagnosed asynchronously. 

Variations Within Different Types of Electronic Stethoscopes

In addition to digitalizing and amplifying stethoscopes, there are some important variations in these devices that you need to consider.

Differences in Microphone and Amplifier

Electronic stethoscopes may only consist of a microphone and amplifier in some instances. As a result, they tend to pick up a great deal of background noise. In some models of electronic stethoscopes with a sound-collection diaphragm, there is a piezoelectric crystal in the headpiece.

Electromagnetic Diaphragm

There are also stethoscopes that have an electromagnetic diaphragm and a conductive inner surface with a capacitive detector, which works like a standard acoustic stethoscope, collecting sound using changes in air pressure.

Electronic Amplification

For the perfect combination of acoustic, the electronic stethoscopes use an acoustic sound source and electronic amplification.

Ambient Noise Reduction

Due to their ability to produce digital, or electric sound pulses, electronic stethoscopes are more than just volume control devices for health care professionals. Amplification or cancellation of selective sound waves can reduce ambient noise. 

ECG machines these days are able to identify rhythm patterns, similarly to how algorithms embedded within electronic stethoscopes will soon recognize normal and abnormal body sounds.

Different Tubing

While the acoustic and electronic stethoscope tubes are very similar, there are some differences. Some models have modules mounted in or around the tubing, which contain the circuitry that converts sound. 

In addition, in electronic stethoscopes as well as acoustic stethoscopes, the length, and thickness of tubing are the same. The tubing of some models may also contain circuitry for converting sound internally. However, there are models without traditional tubing instead of using only electronic cables. 

How to Change the Frequency Modes on an Electronic Stethoscope?

Electronic frequency filtering is usually accessible via a button or switches on most stethoscopes that allow the user to change low or high-frequency modes. However, it’s possible that some electronic stethoscopes have tunable diaphragms or that the bell and diaphragm have to be physically changed.

 In this case, the frequency that is being heard is simply filtered. The chest piece module of the electronic stethoscope has to be plugged and unplugged from the stethoscope unit to switch between transmitting or receiving modes.

Why Should You Use an Electronic Stethoscope?

Amplification of audio

One of the main benefits of electronic and amplifying stethoscopes is that you can hear more clearly and loudly, which is extremely useful in noisy ward environments or pre-hospital settings. Models and brands differ in the degree of amplification, but 24x is generally the minimum.

Recording Selectively 

In the past, recording auscultation was a time-consuming and expensive process. You can now use an electronic stethoscope or an amplified stethoscope to perform this.

Electronic stethoscopes are becoming widely adopted and famous for their particular recording feature. With the ability to record sound from a diagnostic procedure exam, body sounds can be stored either for medical training and education or for adding to a patient’s medical record. 

During multidisciplinary meetings, audio recordings are helpful to collaborate, present at conferences, etc.

Sound Reduction in the Workplace: 

Through the conversion of the sound to electronic signals, advanced algorithms are able to significantly cut down ambient noise, allowing the doctor to only hear body sound frequencies. 

Ability to Control Volume

This stethoscope with volume control can be a lifesaver for people who have trouble hearing with a common stethoscope and can greatly improve their ability to auscultate. You’ll be more confident when making medical deductions and less frustrated. You need to cut unnecessary frustrations in your work environment if you want to stay healthy.

On the majority of electronic stethoscopes, there is a volume dial or a button for changing the volume. You will find it on the chest piece, in a module that is attached to the tubing, or on the body of the stethoscope. Some modules display the volume level currently in use visually or acoustically, except for some.

How Does An Electronic Stethoscope Differ From An Amplifying Stethoscope?

Hear Sounds at Varying Frequencies

Various components in the circuitry are responsible for the amplification and optimization of energy for hearing at multiple frequencies. In addition, the circuitry allows for digitizing, encoding, and decoding the sound energy and reducing ambient noise before it is sent to speakers.

Transducers in electronic stethoscopes are different from those in acoustic stethoscopes, which share the same physics. Putting a microphone in the chest piece is the simplest and least effective way to detect sound. But there is interference from ambient noise in this method.

It Transmits Sounds Electronically

It is essential to keep in mind that electronic and acoustic stethoscopes produce different sounds, regardless of their circuitry or transducer. Despite the best sounds obtained with electronic stethoscopes currently on the market, doctors are automatically aware of the “electronic” quality of the sounds. 

Electronic stethoscopes have the advantage of being able to output audio, serial data and wirelessly transmit sound clips because they transmit sounds electronically.

Using electronic stethoscopes to perform auscultation is not an easy task, but with practice, practitioners can learn how to determine what the sound is from using an electronic stethoscope.

Videoconferencing System

In addition to being connected to an audio output, some electronic stethoscopes can be connected to audio input for a videoconferencing system. Through a network connection, they can send the sound data to another videoconferencing endpoint in real-time. 

Increased Acoustic Power

In electronic stethoscopes, the chest piece collects acoustic sound energy and converts it into electrical energy. The converted voltage is passed through an amplifier in the electronic stethoscope’s circuitry during the conversion process. 

Small amounts of energy can be taken in by this amplifier, which then converts the signal to increase sound power. There is a volume dial or a volume button on the majority of electronic stethoscopes. There are several ways to attach it: on the chest piece, in a tube, or directly on the stethoscope module. 

There is Only a Diaphragm and a Machine

In terms of design, amplifying stethoscopes look like the traditional stethoscope with the diaphragm, tubing, and earpieces. However, electronic stethoscopes look pretty different from traditional stethoscopes, since they have a single device that includes the diaphragm and the machine. 

Superior Sound Quality

Due to the considerable differences between the acoustic and electronic stethoscopes, the electronic scope has been commented on as being difficult to get used to by medical professionals. After using an electronic stethoscope repeatedly, most practitioners learn to appreciate the superior sound quality obtained from the device.

Many high-quality electronic stethoscopes come with recording features, wireless transmission, and data output capabilities.

Two Modes of the Electronic Stethoscope

The stethoscopes have two possible behaviors when operating in these modes — either they block all sounds except those in a defined frequency range. Or you can allow all frequencies through and optimize sounds in a specific range.

Easy Switching Between the Modes

To switch between modes, the majority of electronic stethoscopes have buttons or switches. You can find the switch or button to change frequency or mode on the chest piece, directly on the stethoscope unit, or on a module built into the tubing.

Customize Your Tool to Meet Your Requirements

Furthermore, you can choose ergonomic accessories to make your stethoscope perfect for your hearing and comfort. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” stethoscope anymore. When you use an electronic stethoscope, you can actually customize it the way you want.

LCD Screen Built

A remarkable advantage of having an electronic microscope is the LCD screen that they come with. The screen allows you to see the heartbeats as they happen. As a result, you can listen to a heart rhythm as well as see it live.

Accurate and Effective Care

Hence, electronic stethoscopes are easily customizable, so you can pick the accessories you like best and switch them out to suit your needs. that means that the stethoscope is actually doing its job to enable you to provide the highest, most accurate, and most effective care.

3 Different Modules of Electronic Stethoscopes

Data Acquiring Module:

Sound is recorded, filtered, amplified, and converted to digital signals by this module. Usually, the data-acquisition module of an electronic stethoscope consists of three elements: an electronic stethoscope sensor, an amplifier, and a digital-to-analog converter.

Pre-processing Module:

In this module, the signals are removed from sound artifacts, normalized, and segmented. Among the modules in this unit is a signal de-noising unit, and the normalization module is used to scale the heart sounds.

The Signal Processing Module:

The signal processing extracts the event waveforms and analyses them to assist the clinician with the diagnostic process. Further analysis will involve converting raw data to parametric representations. Classifiers will then help physicians make clinical diagnostic decisions based on the data they collect.

Electronic Stethoscopes Come with a Variety of Accessories. What Are Some Accessories Available?

With electronic stethoscopes, several options are available that are not available with traditional acoustic stethoscopes.

Switch to a Different Headphone for Better Listening

In addition to traditional headphones, you can also switch to over-ear headphones that deliver better sound quality, earbuds that are more comfortable, or even noise-canceling headphones that bring less outside noise into your ears.

Connect Your Tool Via Wireless Technology

You can connect some stethoscopes via wireless technology to a smartphone or computer, allowing you to enjoy the convenience of storing, downloading, and sending recordings for future use, as well as sending alerts to other healthcare professionals for health concerns. 

A Stethoscope Amplifier for Clear Hearing

You can also buy an electronic stethoscope amplifier if the volume control is not sufficient, ensuring that your skills as a health care professional remain intact.

Direct Wire for Easy Downloading

Some stethoscopes will also provide you with Direct-wire input devices. It enables you to easily download recordings from a stethoscope to your computer with some models.

The direct connections will ensure that no matter how bad your Wi-Fi is, your recordings will still be able to be uploaded with a minimum of effort.

What Are The Other Features Of An Electronic Stethoscope?

Broadcasting of readings:

Having the ability to control the volume on your electronic stethoscope may seem impressive enough. In spite of this, digital stethoscopes have a multitude of new uses that an acoustic stethoscope was not capable of. You can, for instance, broadcast the stethoscope’s readings through a sound system.

The result will be tremendously faster and smoother collaboration, education, and conferencing. Now, instead of having to gather around a patient who is already uncomfortable and take turns listening to their heartbeat or wheezing, a team of nurses and doctors can do this on their own.

Listening to all the sounds simultaneously is possible. Students can also listen to stethoscope readings at the same time. 

Record Readings and Sounds

Furthermore, electronic stethoscopes have the capability to record sound, which is another groundbreaking application. Nursing staff, doctors, CNAs, and others can record auditory information through a stethoscope and make it accessible.

The faster and more accurate reporting of emergencies will lead to better care for patients. It will also make your work and that of other healthcare workers easier.

You Can Save Recordings:

In addition to recording sound, you can also save those recordings to your wireless device like a phone or computer, so you will have the option of looking at recordings in the future. You can honestly imagine the possibilities for using this feature.

As well, you can save recordings for use as a tool for future follow-up care of individual patients. In addition to these uses, recordings are helpful for gaining professional opinions to diagnose, cope with, or study the illness and other conditions of a patient. Thus, private comparisons with other patients can also be made in experimental studies.

What Are the Software Applications For Electronic Stethoscopes?

Transform Recordings Into Visual Charts

Several manufacturers offer their electronic stethoscopes with software applications that go beyond the built-in functions. These applications can be valuable to you, your staff, and your patients. In Littman’s software example, the sounds of your heart and lungs can be plotted in a visual chart for deeper analysis.

Detect Murmurs from Sound Recordings

Zargis has also produced software that physicians can use to detect heart murmurs based on recordings of heartbeats. Apart from these programs, there are many others that can be used alongside electronic stethoscopes.

Using these systems streamlines the process of purchasing the necessary equipment. Therefore, they’re helpful for a wide range of purposes to make it easier for you to care for your patients.

It will not only be convenient for you, but it will be a massive advantage to all of your patients as well because these programs will let you detect a variety of potentially life-threatening conditions.

How Much Should An Electronic Stethoscope Cost?

Some electronic stethoscopes cost as much as $80 and others as much as $500. It depends on the brand and features. A modest investment will result in more accurate readings and saving time in the future.

Even if the price for electronic stethoscopes is higher nevertheless, they are absolutely worth the money. Since they come with a wide variety of uses, software, as well as a range of other significant benefits that can’t be found in any other stethoscope, no matter what the price.

How to Choose A Good Electronic Stethoscope?

Stethoscope selection is more than choosing a brand name and a price. There are several factors to take into consideration when making your purchase:

Chest Piece

Choose a chest piece built of steel or titanium for maximum durability. The sound travels better through more rigid materials than through softer metals such as aluminum.

Headset

 In addition to the chest piece, the headset needs to be made from the same high-density material with a 15-degree angle.

Diaphragm 

Punctures and other damage shouldn’t be able to penetrate the diaphragm. Therefore, it must be of good quality and durable. Moreover, it is better to have a tunable diaphragm because it takes less time while examine. 

Ear Tips 

Accurate readings require the proper use of ear tips. To create a good seal, the ear tips should be comfortable and secure in your ear. Additionally, they come in different sizes, so make sure the earpieces are of the right size to fit your ears.  

Transfer Files and Recordings

Electronic stethoscopes come with features of transferring recordings and sounds to your computer or device. Therefore, it is a convenient feature when you are working as a medical professional, and you want to share audio with other professionals for medical concerns. Thus, while buying an electronic stethoscope, pick one that meets your needs. 

Methods of Sound Detection

An electronic stethoscope offers a unique method for detecting sound that is unlike the acoustic stethoscope. In order to conceal a microphone, the easiest option is to place it in the chest piece of the scope.

In addition to being the least effective, this method can cause increased noise interference. There is, however, another method that employs a piezoelectric crystal embedded in a metal shaft. Its bottom end should touch the diaphragm after being inserted into the stethoscope head. 

 

Littman Core Digital Stethoscope

The Littman stethoscope’s high-tech features and outstanding quality make it an ideal choice for healthcare professionals seeking to upgrade or replace their current stethoscopes.

Clear Listening

In a busy emergency room or clinic, the Littman Core Digital electronic stethoscope provides the best listening experience possible by reducing the background noise. In return, it gives you a clear sound during diagnosis. 

Use Bluetooth to Transfer Audio.

You can connect the Bluetooth stethoscope to a computer or your mobile and transfer audio files using it.

Different Types of Earpieces

There are different styles and sizes of earpieces that come with the stethoscope to make it easy for users to pick. 

Latex-Free Construction:

In this model of the Littman, the tubing is not made from natural rubber latex. It is therefore safe for people with allergies or sensitive skin. Tube colors may differ from order to order. Moreover, the Littman 3200 stethoscope features a two-year warranty.

Here are the pros:

  • A redesign of the user interface
  • Latex-free construction
  • Multiple sizes and styles of earpieces
  • Bluetooth’s connectivity. 

Unlike the Littman 3200 and 3100, the one offers superior sound filtration and works with nearly any type of headphones. Using a rechargeable battery is convenient, as there is no need to replace the battery or deal with a cord. Hence, it is the benefit of using an electronic stethoscope. 

It is also easy to share and store all data with your devices if the scope connects with them. The best electronic stethoscopes are those that provide high-quality sound and will meet your needs.

 

These are the top stethoscopes of 2021 I highly recommend:

  1. EKO CORE Digital Electronic Stethoscope
  2. Cardionics E-Scope 7700 Digital Stethoscope
  3. Cardionics E-Scope II 7710 Belt Model Stethoscope
  4. MDF Pulse Time Digital Stethoscope
  5. 3M Littmann 3200BK Electronic Stethoscope

Maintaining Your Tool

Once you have bought a perfect device according to your needs. It’s imperative for you to take care of the investment for enhanced durability and reliability.

Keep your tool away from liquids

One should take care when cleaning an electronic stethoscope because it is not waterproof. Therefore, using an electronic stethoscope in highly wet climates may not be the best choice. 

Cleaning the parts of your tool

To clean the ear tips thoroughly, remove them and push them back firmly on. 

Please note: Before you clean the chest piece and diaphragm of your stethoscope, you need to turn it off.

For cleaning, the diaphragm is not necessary to remove, but you can do this if necessary. 

Do You Know Why More People Do Not Own An Electronic Stethoscope?

It was observed that early electronic stethoscopes could not pick up as many sounds as a traditional acoustic stethoscope. In contrast, modern electronic stethoscopes are built with an acoustic system combined with an electronic system, allowing them to capture the same sounds as traditional stethoscopes.

Battery Replacements

Aside from that, you’ll have access to all the features that made electronic stethoscopes so favorite in the first place, as well as many others. Besides their battery dependence, electronic stethoscopes also require periodic battery replacements, leaving health care professionals with some hesitation to use them. 

Using the Tool Can Be Challenging

Furthermore, for people who have been using traditional stethoscopes for a long time, using an electronic stethoscope can be challenging. It does, however, become more accessible as users get used to it over time. 

Final Words

During the course of your career as a healthcare professional, you rely a lot on your stethoscope. Don’t you and your patients deserve the best? Wouldn’t it be great to have a stethoscope that facilitates your work?

Investing in an electronic stethoscope can save you time, reduce your stress level, and allow you to deliver far better patient care.

In addition, since electronic stethoscopes are continually improving, they are on their way to becoming the standard for all healthcare professionals. By purchasing an electronic stethoscope today, you’ll be ahead of the learning curve in the future. 

Photo of author

Muhammad Bilal Qayyum

MBBS from Taishan Medical University and currently working in Bahawal Victoria Hospital. The blog is a great resource for both novices and experienced users when it comes to stethoscopes. As I studied and practiced, I evaluated various models on the market, which led me to become an expert in stethoscopes.

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