There are many electronic stethoscopes currently available in a range of prices. As a relatively new innovation, however, it may be difficult to find enough information to make an educated choice. With that in mind, we’ve put together an electronic stethoscope review featuring some of the major players in this new and exciting market.
Electronic stethoscope overview
The basic function of an electronic stethoscope is to transform acoustic sound waves into digital electrical signals. Once converted, the sound can then be amplified and clarified for the best possible listening and assessment.
Following amplification, it also becomes necessary to reduce or filter out ambient noise. Without ambient noise reduction, distracting environmental sounds are also amplified, making listening difficult and at times even painful.
Electronic stethoscope review
We took a thorough look at the manufacturers’ specifications for four highly rated electronic scopes: the ADC Adscope 657, the Cardionics E-Scope, the Littmann 3200, and the Thinklabs ds32a. Using the criteria of amplification, noise reduction, cost, and add-on technology, we’ve compared them head to head. Here are our results:
Amplification is measured in comparison to what the user would hear from a medium quality acoustic stethoscope. The Adscope comes in at the low end, offering 16x amplification. Littmann, with 24x amplification, is next, followed by the E-Scope at 30x. The clear winner in this category is the Thinklabs scope, with a whopping 50x amplification.
Ambient noise reduction
Neither ADC nor Cardionics provides any information regarding the noise reducing capabilities of their scopes. Thinklabs estimates the ds32a will filter out about 75% of ambient noise, while Littmann leads this category with noise reduction of about 85%.
With the least expensive electronic stethoscope coming in at a price comparable to a top-of-the-line acoustic scope, these are all a bit pricey. But there is a substantial difference between the low end ‒ the Adscope, at about $150, and the high end ‒ the E-Scope and the Littmann 3200, both $300 and up. Thinklabs comes in a close second to the Adscope, at about $200.
This is where our electronic stethoscope review gets really interesting. The Adscope comes out at the bottom of this category, offering no recording, file sharing, visualization, or remote capabilities. The E-Scope provides sound recording via cable connection. It’s worth noting that the E-Scope has a special belt model that is used with headphones, making it an ideal choice for the hard of hearing.
With on-board recording capability and free visualization software via cable connection, the Thinklabs ds32a goes a step further. Mac users will also appreciate its versatile PC and Mac capabilities ‒ and for an extra $70 they offer an app that connects the stethoscope to an iPhone.
The kudos for creative and useful technology, however, go to the Littmann 3200. It features Bluetooth connectivity for sound recording, eliminating the cumbersome cables completely. Free PC compatible visualization software is included, and in addition, Littmann provides real-time teleauscultation for remote consults and examinations.
If you’re seeking the ultimate in sound transmission from a stethoscope, the electronic stethoscope is clearly the way to go. With powerfully amplified sound, ambient noise reduction, and in some cases, the ability to record and transmit digitized audio outputs, the electronic stethoscope may in fact be the wave of the future.