Do I need amplification?

Heart and lung sounds are low frequency, lower than most speech sounds. And lower than the audiogram usually tests. Most speech sounds are from 250Hz to 4000Hz and upwards. Heart sounds are between 20-650Hz, lung sounds 70-4000Hz, most below 2000Hz [1][2]. So those of us with only a high-frequency hearing loss may be able to use normal stethoscopes safely. If your hearing loss is significant at these frequencies, you will need an amplified stethoscope.

Once you’ve established whether you need amplification or not, your choice of stethoscope will also depend on whether or not you’re happy to take your hearing aids out or would prefer to keep them in when you use a stethoscope.

[1] I’ve found slightly different information about frequencies of heart and lung sounds from different manufacturers of electronic stethoscopes. Different models amplify up to different frequencies so check out the technical specifications. The figures above are in Cardionics Technical Information Bulletin E-7710
[2] Explained in more detail in Technical Considerations in Using Stethoscopes with Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants. Includes frequency range of bowel sounds.
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