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.
What is an Electronic Stethoscope?
You might be wondering what an electronic stethoscope is and how it’s different from the manual one.
Unlike the conventional steth, an electronic stethoscope uses electricity to amplify body sounds. Technology advancements have enabled electronic amplification of sound to produce wonderful results.
With electronic ‘scopes, nurses and doctors have better control of the volume of their devices. These ‘scopes produce digital (electronic) sound impulses. For physicians with partial hearing loss or those working in noisy areas, the ability to control the volume can be a game changer. The hassle of listening for sounds longer is eliminated, allowing you to save time and get accurate diagnoses.
The health profession is already demanding as it is. A stethoscope that can lessen work exasperation is a necessity.
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.
Electronic Stethoscope vs. Acoustic Stethoscope
The sound-volume control is an awesome feature of digital stethoscopes, but is not the only thing that makes the ‘scopes in demand. Continue reading this electronic stethoscope review for more.
Electronic stethoscopes can record sounds. Therefore, a medical student, nurse, CNA or doctor can record auditory readings on their scope and have another medic listen to help with diagnosis.
Apart from being able to record auditory readings, the recording can be saved on a computer or phone and shared with other medics. Nurses working on long-term individual patient cases can save the recordings for future reference.
There are many benefits of the recording feature. For example, students can learn from recorded sound in group discussions to improve treatment methods. In experimental treatments, sound recordings can be used to study, compare, diagnose and even treat diseases.
Electric stethoscopes can also broadcasting recordings over a sound system. In a conference or education setting, the pre-recorded or live auditory sounds can be streamed in real-time to the team. The broadcast capability allows a team of doctors or nurses to diagnose a patient without making him/her uncomfortable by individually listening to his/her body sounds.
Some companies have developed integrated software applications for various stethoscopes. These applications improve the functionality of the devices, making them more beneficial to both medics and their patients.
One such software is created by Zargis and helps to detect heart murmurs from audio recordings of heartbeats.
Littmann also has a software that allows you to transfer recordings of lung and heart sounds from its electronic stethoscopes (Littmann electronic stethoscope 3200, Littmann electronic stethoscope 4100 and Littmann stethoscope electronic 3100) into visual charts for better study.
Such applications improve the functionality of the stethoscopes, enabling medics to save more lives, faster. The software can help you identify serious or life-threatening conditions early on. When the conditions are detected, you can take the appropriate measures to prevent your patient from getting worse or dying.
Electronic Stethoscope Review: The Features
This feature allows you to customize your ‘scope and listen more comfortably and keenly to make a perfect diagnosis.
LCD Display Screen
A digital stethoscope has an LCD display screen that shows the heart rate with each heartbeat. You can see the heart rhythm on the screen. You will be in a better position to make a more accurate diagnosis when you listen to and watch the heartbeat.
Unlike acoustic stethoscopes that have limited accessories, electronic steths have quite a number that you can choose from. You can use the accessories you love and require. You can also swap these accessories to personalize your steth.
With electronic stethoscopes, the neck injuries and complications that came with the traditional stethoscopes are no more. These modern steths are easy to carry, wear and use.
Electronic Stethoscope Accessories
There are different ways in which you can accessorize your electronic stethoscope, unlike is the case with an acoustic steth.
For example, some electronic steths have attachments that allow you to synchronize them to your computer or smartphone. Therefore, you can share recordings, download and even save them for long-term study. Moreover, if there is healthcare concern, it is easier to alert other medics straight away.
Some electronic steths also have volume amplifiers. Medics with mild hearing impairment will find this feature beneficial.
With some digital ‘scopes, you can swap traditional earphones with high sound quality headphones. You can use ergonomic earbuds and noise canceling earphones with the stethoscopes to improve your listening.
Finally, some models have direct wire input devices. This makes it easier to download recordings from them to your smartphone or computer. This means you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi to upload your recordings.
Let’s check some important factors to consider when buying an electronic stethoscope as well as some of the best models you can get.
Parts of an 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. When it comes to parts, check the following
- 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.
Best Electronic Stethoscope Reviews
|USA||6.6 ounces||27 inches||2 years|
|USA||14.4 ounces||None||2 years|
|USA||6.6 ounces||27 inches||3 years|
Thinklabs One is easily the best electronic stethoscope. Its most outstanding feature is the 3.5mm jack that allows you to connect your preferred headphones. The steth also has multiple filter options to make your listening experience phenomenon.
If you wish, you can choose the Thinklabs studio quality headphones. These will allow you to hear even the very deep bass sounds of the heart as well as treble ranges of your favorite song.
With the filter options, you can listen to both high and low-frequency sounds. Even better, pre-setting your favorite features only requires a swift selection.
The Thinklabs One stethoscope uses lithium-ion batteries. It also has a universal AC charger and a USB-type charger cable for charging the batteries. You will only need a maximum of two charges a week.
Thinklabs One Digital stethoscope is also compatible with Thinklink. This is a software that allows you to connect your stethoscope with other devices like your smartphone, iPod, Mac or PC.
What we Love
- The multiple filter capabilities
- The rechargeable battery
- The ability to easily hear extremely low and high pitched sounds
- It is expensive (check price at Amazon)
- You will have to buy headphones
Thinklab One Digital Stethoscope Reviews
#1 “As an electronic stethoscope, it works relatively well although it is prone to noise disturbance”
#2 “It allows for one with hearing aids to use them efficiently”
This Littmann stethoscope produces crisp clear sounds in both the bell and diaphragm modes.
The amplification capability (up to x24) of this model is a step ahead of other stethoscopes. This, with the noise-canceling capability, makes working in loud environment easy when you have the steth.
The Littmann 3100 stethoscope has a non-chill diaphragm and can reduce frictional noise. The tubing is also safe for sensitive individuals as it is phthalate plasticizers and latex free.
What We Love…
- Excellent quality bell and diaphragm
- Ability to reduce frictional noise
- Phenomenon amplification ability
- Does not eliminate all ambient noises
- The battery compartment has a weak wiring connection
- Not compatible with Mac computers
Littmann 3100 Stethoscope Reviews
#1 “Although I had to hold the bell in a specific position to keep it from disconnecting, the amplification was extraordinary. Unfortunately, I could also hear some background noise”
#2 “Both models produced clear sound outputs. The amplification was amazing especially when I was working outdoors.”
You need a business account license to purchase the Littmann 3100 electronic stethoscope on Amazon.
Last on the list of the best electronic stethoscope is the EKO Core Digital Stethoscope. While this is a digital stethoscope, its working mechanism is analog! The device can be used with the conventional stethoscope.
The EKO Core electronic stethoscope has a Bluetooth component that can connect to your tablet or phone. As you take the vital signs, the component will transform the analog sound waves to digital and send them to your phone or tablet.
Keep in mind that the EKO stethoscope does not record any sounds. Instead, it simply transforms the analog waves to digital waves and sends them through. You can then store the digital sound waves in a patient’s medical record.
The EKO Core is an excellent electronic stethoscope for those who work in the cardiology section.
If you work in a busy clinic or a noisy emergency room, the Littmann electronic stethoscope 3200 will be right for you. The stethoscope can transfer audio files using Bluetooth and even connect to other computers.
There are different earpiece styles and sizes that the stethoscope is packaged with. The earpieces do not have natural rubber latex in their tubing. Therefore, they are safe for latex-sensitive people. The stethoscope’s tubes come in a variety of colors.
The Littmann stethoscope 3200 comes with a warranty of 2 years.
What We Love
- It is latex free
- Comes with more than one ear piece
- Features a redesigned user interface
- It requires batteries
- The battery compartment has a weak connection
Littmann 3200 Electronic Stethoscope Reviews
#1 “This stethoscope is extremely sensitive to pressure. So, you need to be careful when holding it or else it might turn off”
#2 “The Littmann 3200 stethoscope is extremely efficient”
What to Consider When Buying an Electronic Stethoscope
Ease of Use
Select an electronic stethoscope that has easy-to-use controls. The device should have dedicated buttons for switching it on/off. Moreover, you should be able to adjust the volume and change the mode between bell/diaphragm on the head.
Early digital stethoscopes failed prematurely because the batteries got drained quickly. However, the modern stethoscopes on the market today come with batteries with a longer lifespan. The best electronic stethoscope can be used more than 125 times when powered on a pair of AAA batteries.
Check the battery lifespan of the stethoscope you want to buy. Choose a digital scope that can be powered for a long time with batteries.
Ability to Download, Share and Store Diagnostics Data
Digital stethoscopes convert analog sound into digital format. Any data that is in digital format can be transmitted, modified and stored. Therefore, when you take your patient’s vital signs with a digital ‘scope, you can store it for references during future diagnostics. You can also share the digital data with other medics when you need a second opinion on the vital signs.
In case the patient changes doctors, the medical history diagnostics data can be easily transferred to the physicians with the click of a button.
Choose a stethoscope that can record, store and share the diagnostics data you get from patients.
Ambient Noise Handling and Reduction
If you’ve gone to a music concert before, you know how feedback loop sounds like. The loop is the high-pitch screech that comes out of the speaker due to the sound being amplified. A digital stethoscope amplifies sound in a similar manner.
However, the best electronic stethoscopes have been designed to prevent amplification of the amplified sounds to ensure there is no feedback loop. Digital stethoscopes eliminate unwanted noises during an auscultation procedure.
The best electric stethoscopes use complex transducers that turn analog sounds into digital sound patterns to enable doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals hear lung sounds, heart murmurs, and so on. The digital sound can be amplified and modified to be used in different ways. The amplification and modification of sound are not possible with traditional ‘scopes.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Own a Digital Stethoscope?
Many healthcare professionals haven’t switched to the modern technology scope because of several intricacies. These include:
Since electronic stethoscopes require batteries, some medics shy away from them. They fear they will be forced to walk around with a charger or extra batteries, Moreover, there is the hassle of having to change the batteries in the heat of the moment.
Unlike traditional acoustic stethoscopes that only require alcohol, water and a sponge to be cleaned, the parts of the electronic scope are delicate. The parts are not waterproof and some models require special cleaning liquid.
Fixed Work Environments
Electronic stethoscopes are not waterproof. Therefore, you need to be careful with the environment you are using them in. You cannot use them in extremely wet condition. Moreover, they can get too humid when used in hot conditions.
Poor Launch Reputation
Premier electronic stethoscopes garnered a bad reputation for being unable to pick up sounds that acoustic scopes could. This made physicians wary of purchasing them.
However, this downfall was addressed. The latest electronic stethoscopes have been integrated with acoustic technology, which has improved their acoustic capability.
Which is the Best Electronic Stethoscope to Buy?
The Thinklabs One electronic stethoscope is clearly the winner among these three stethoscopes. Its excellent quality and high-tech features make it perfect.
With the Thinklabs one stethoscope, you will not be confined to a specific type of headphones like is the case with Littmann 3100 and Littmann 3200. The sound filtration features are also outstanding. The steth’s battery is rechargeable. Moreover, you don’t need a cord that will keep distracting you.
The Thinklink feature which allows you to connect the Thinklab One stethoscope to other devices for easy sharing and storage gives it an edge over the Littmann electronic stethoscopes.
The most important thing to consider when choosing an electronic stethoscope is the quality of sound produced. Based on this, the Thinklabs stethoscope is our number one recommendation.