A stethoscope is one of the most important tools for a physician. Thus, its quality is very important. You will need a stethoscope to listen to cardiac and lung sounds and also take blood pressure reading.
Most medics make a mistake of only considering recommendation, brand and price when shopping for a stethoscope. However, this should not be the case. There are various important things to consider to find a stethoscope that will meet your expectations.
Most doctors identify with the traditional acoustic stethoscope. However, technology led to a more advanced stethoscope: the electronic stethoscope (also known as a digital stethoscope).
If you want a quick recommendation of a quality electronic stethoscope, check out the Thinklabs One electronic stethoscope which is our favorite.
Overview of Digital Stethoscopes
This is a more advanced stethoscope than the traditional acoustic stethoscopes. While many brands of electronic stethoscopes in the market, you should research well to find a good quality one. Let’s look at the basic features of electronic stethoscopes:
Electronic stethoscopes are powered by external energy. The source of the energy a model requires depends on its design.
Most digital stethoscopes are powered by AC 12V power cords instead of batteries. When powered on, most of the steths will have some light indication. When they run low on power, the stethoscopes will also show some visual or audio signal.
Amplifying stethoscopes use rechargeable batteries, lithium, AAA or AA batteries. Some models have a visual indicator when the power level is low on the scope or LCD of the chestpiece.
Some medics are wary of purchasing electronic steths as they are afraid of them suddenly going off while they are in the middle of their examination. However, this rarely happens.
Digitizing stethoscopes are electronic stethoscopes capable of converting audio sounds to digital signals. They can also transmit serialized audio data that can be shared in real time or stored and then later shared.
Digitizing stethoscopes have an electronic sensor that detects sound and then converts it to electronic form. This sound is then run through a circuit that amplifies, filters in accordance with the frequency and is converted from analog to digital.
This digitized data can be sent to any computer software across a network through a video conference unit. However, for this to happen, both the electronic stethoscopes sending and receiving data must be capable of converting digital signals to analog signals, amplifying the sounds, filtering the frequency and finally transmitting the sound to a form humans can understand.
Most amplifying stethoscopes have an audio output signal you can use to transfer real-time data using some form of software. The software can have algorithms for interpretation and diagnosis of audio output from the stethoscope.
You can save and transmit the audio output electronically through email to other health professionals. With some models, you can even transmit this data through a video conference unit.
Electronic stethoscopes amplify the body sounds. Thus, they have no problem of low sound level that is common with most acoustic stethoscopes.
The stethoscopes also convert acoustic sound waves into electronic signals. The signals are then run through a circuit that enhances the sound, enabling it to be listened to at different frequencies.
The circuit also digitizes sound and decreases background noise. This allows you make the best diagnosis based on what you hear and not interfering noises.
How to Choose the Best Electronic Stethoscope
If you only consider how famous a brand is or solely rely on recommendations by workmates, you are bound to choose an electronic stethoscope that might not satisfy your needs. Consider the following before buying an electronic stethoscope:
- Headset. Go for a headset that is angled at 15 degrees to improve comfort while wearing. Also, the headset and chest piece should be of high-quality material.
- Chest piece. A high-quality chest piece should be made of titanium or steel. These high-density materials have better sound conductivity than softer materials.
- Diaphragm. The diaphragm should be sturdy and not prone to damage or punctures.
- Eartips. The ear tips should perfectly fit in your ears such that they won’t carelessly fall off. Moreover, they should block ambient noise.
Electronic stethoscopes detect sound differently from traditional acoustic stethoscopes. Most electronic stethoscopes have a tiny microphone in their chest piece. However, such models usually have increased ambient noise interference.
Some models also have a piezoelectric crystal at the head of the metal shaft. The shaft is then put in the head of the stethoscope, with the bottom in contact with the diaphragm. With some brands, the crystal is coated with a thick diaphragm made of rubber-like material.
Finally, some electronic stethoscopes use an electromagnetic diaphragm with a conductive inner surface to detect sound. This arrangement creates a capacitive sensor and has the same response to sound waves as traditional acoustic stethoscopes. However, the sound does not cause a physical change in the air pressure but instead changes the electrical field. Th electronic steth, therefore, gives a similar sound to an acoustic steth except that the sound is amplified.
The differences between the electronic stethoscope and the traditional acoustic stethoscope make some medical professionals apprehensive of switching to them. However, those who choose electronic steths are impressed by their sound quality.
High-end electronic stethoscope brands are also capable of wireless transmission, recording and data output.
3 Top Rated Electronic Stethoscopes
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