Do I need amplification?

To choose your stethoscope, first establish whether you need amplification.

Heart and lung sounds are lower frequency than most speech sounds. Most speech sounds are from 250 – 4000Hz, and many are higher. Heart sounds are 20-650Hz and lung sounds 70-4000Hz, most below 2000Hz [1], [2].  These are lower than the audiogram usually tests.

If your hearing is too poor in the low frequencies, you will need an amplified stethoscope. If you only have a high-frequency hearing loss, you may be able to use a normal stethoscope.

Next decide whether you’re happy to take your hearing aids out when you use a stethoscope.

[1] These figures are from Cardionics Technical Information Bulletin E-7710When I researched this, different stethoscope manufacturers quoted slightly different figures. Different models don’t amplify the same range of frequencies as others. Check out the technical specifications.

[2] Technical Considerations in Using Stethoscopes  explains this in more detail and includes the frequency range of bowel sounds.

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