Electronic stethoscopes have a number of advantages over traditional stethoscopes such as being able to amplify the sounds received through the stethoscopes head and the ability to observe those sounds through a visual display.
Some stethoscopes are capable of recording and replaying captured audio/video, which allows physicians and practitioners to show patients what’s going on with their health, and makes it easier to maintain patient data that needs to be entered into medical records at a later time.
These stethoscopes are great for individuals who work in specialized fields such as cardiology or those who have difficulty hearing through regular stethoscopes.
The ability to amplify and adjust listening frequencies makes electronic stethoscope an excellent tool when a medical professional is in need of quick and precise medical readings.
Depending on the electronic stethoscope that is used the features and capabilities of the stethoscope can vary, however the most common features available on most electronic stethoscopes include sound amplification and the ability to adjust the listening frequency.
There are a number of advantages to using an electronic stethoscope such as:
- Amplified sound output
- Enhanced frequency range
- Ambient noise reduction
- Record and replay capabilities
- Reduced time needed to get an accurate reading
- Visual display (some models)
Amplified sound output: Electronic stethoscopes are capable of increasing/amplifying the sounds they receive, which makes it easier and faster for medical specialists to detect and determine a patients medical condition.
Enhanced frequency range: Electronic stethoscopes allow the user to adjust the frequency range they are listening out for, which allows them to detect a wide range medical issues that generate their own sounds.
Ambient noise reduction: Some stethoscopes may be capable of reducing outside ambient noise so that the user can listen to patient sounds more clearly.
Record & replay functionality: Being able to record data and replay it back means users can show their patients what they are listening to and save data that can be transferred to the patients medical records at a later time.
Reduced time for accurate readings – By being able to amplify sounds and tune into specific frequencies increases the speed at which a medical professional can determine a patients physical health.
Visual display – As mentioned earlier visual displays allow the medical professional to see on a digital display what they are listening to through their headphones, and may help them further detect the things they may / may not notice through the auditory channel.
While electronic stethoscopes come with a number of advantages over traditional stethoscopes they are not without their disadvantages.
To begin with electronic stethoscopes are typically heavier and less mobile than non electronic ones and they require batteries to function properly.
Electronic stethoscopes are also very costly when compared to other stethoscopes and their additional functionality may not be needed within most healthcare specialties.
Lastly, some individuals feel that these stethoscopes may be affected by other electronic frequencies such as cell phones, pagers and other devices that emit electronic signals.
Electronic stethoscopes have a number of disadvantages including:
- Heavier and less mobile
- Requires batteries
- Can cost significantly more than non electronic stethoscopes
- Electronic components can be damaged if not taken care of
- Possibility of interference from other electronic devices
Heavier & less mobile: Because electronic stethoscopes require more components and electronics they are typically less mobile and heavier, which can make them difficult to carry around throughout the day when a high level of mobility is needed.
Requires batteries or an electronic source: Many electronic stethoscopes require a power source to work correctly and without electricity they will be completely non functional devices.
Higher cost: Electronic stethoscopes can be extremely pricey costing hundreds of dollars, which makes them less than ideal for most career fields that do not need the additional functionality of electronic stethoscopes.
More opportunities to be damaged: Electronic stethoscopes are electronic devices, which means they can be damaged more easily than non electronic ones. Medical professionals that move around a lot may not want to invest in a stethoscope that can break easily if not taken care of.
Electronic interference: Electronic stethoscopes may be susceptible to electronic interference by other devices. This will usually depend on the individual stethoscope, however a high quality electronic stethoscope shouldn’t have many issues with this problem.
Electronic stethoscopes do have a number of advantages, which makes them extremely useful for certain specialties that can benefit from the added functionality, however they also have disadvantages that may make other medical professionals less than interested in purchasing one for their particular needs.
Who should buy an electronic stethoscope:
- Medical professionals who work in specialty fields that require extremely precise readings
- Individuals who have difficulty hearing through regular stethoscopes
- Medical professionals who want to be able to easily record patient data (sound / visual recording allow for patient playback)
Electronic stethoscopes are great for medical professionals that work in fields where quick, precise readings are required such as in cardiology.
They are also great for individuals who have trouble hearing with standard stethoscopes and for those who want to be able to record their patients data, either for playback or as a way to maintain a patients medical data for later transference to the patients medical records.
Who shouldn’t buy an electronic stethoscope:
- Most medical professionals
- Individuals who do not have hearing issues
- Individuals who are just starting out in the medical field (students, new registered nurses etc..)
- Medical providers that do not work in a specialized field that focus primarily on heart and lung health
If an individual has the extra money and wants to go for an electronic stethoscope they may enjoy the extra features that it offers, however it isn’t necessary for everyone.
In fact electronic stethoscopes aren’t required in most healthcare fields if the user is able to hear perfectly fine through a standard stethoscope. Individuals who work in a general healthcare settings may not need an electronic stethoscopes whereas a cardiologist may benefit from the added functionality.
Also electronic stethoscopes likely will not be necessary for medical students or those who are just getting started in their career.