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Let’s not deceive ourselves. Digital stethoscopes are not the future – they are already here.
For many years now, electronic stethoscopes could have become mainstream at hospitals. The technology needed to create self-amplified stethoscopes, with heightened sensitivity and enough battery life to go on for days without needing a recharge has been available to us. This is the kind of stethoscope that enables hearing a midsystolic click over the client’s clothes with perfect clarity.
Best Electronic Stethoscopes
Well then, why are they not being used more widely?
- To start with, the price was (and still is) a barrier at first sight.
- Let’s add to that the resistance to change we can find in the doctors. Why replace a diagnosis tool that already works and has proved to be reliable for decades for another one that I know nothing about, and is more expensive?
- Finally, we need to note that, while an electronic stethoscope offers many advantages, it also adds complexity to auscultation. We need to keep an eye on the batteries. It doesn’t work in the same “plug-and-play” fashion as acoustic stethoscopes. We need to plug it. Set the amplification level we desire. Connect the smartphone’s Bluetooth in case we want to use that feature. And so on.
However, there are many benefits we can enjoy from using electronic stethoscopes. More and more doctors are choosing to take the plunge into digital stethoscopes. If this is your case if you are assessing the possibility of purchasing one of them. What are the best electronic stethoscopes, vs your analog alternatives?
Let’s have a look at our review of the best digital stethoscopes on the market.
1. 3M Littmann CORE Digital Stethoscope 8480 & 8570
Chance didn’t make Littmann the leading brand in the electronic stethoscopes market. It is the company with the longest trajectory and the most valued by medical professionals. At the moment, Littmann is marketing two different stethoscope models: 8480 and 8570.
If we look at their acoustic performance, both models are identical and achieve the same results. With the flick of a switch, the Littman CORE Digital Stethoscopes can switch from analog to digitally amplified auscultation.
These superior models allow you to record, visualize and share up to 120 seconds of auscultation via the free Eko app. This provides great flexibility, being able to save and share auscultation with colleagues to get a second opinion, store them in the client’s history file or use them for educational purposes. The app is available on all app stores; Apple, Android, and Microsoft.
In addition, both stethoscopes provide 40x amplification technology as well as an environmental noise reduction system that manages to remove interference with active noise cancellation. Furthermore, if the lithium-ion battery runs low, this digital stethoscope will merely revert to being an analog stethoscope.
Click below to see the Littmann CORE’s up-to-date pricing:
- Connects to Eko software to visualize and share heart sound waveforms
- Up to 40x amplification (at peak frequency, vs analog mode)
- Active noise cancellation reduces unwanted background sounds
- Toggle between analog and amplified listening modes
2. Thinklabs ONE
Electronic stethoscope Thinklabs ONE is the most disruptive of the whole list. It’s the first that challenges the classic image of acoustic stethoscopes: it’s a small round device, without tubes, without binaural, and without the olives.
It simply comes with some earphones and a standard 3.5 mm. jack.
Its electronic diaphragm is sensitive to pressure, which will allow us to catch low-frequency sounds by intensifying the pressure applied to the client. Besides, we will be able to adjust such sensitivity through its screen, modifying the filter we apply to the obtained auscultations. As we can see in the image, its control panel is very simple and minimalist.
One of the main critics Thinklabs ONE has received is the absence of an environmental noise reduction system. When we amplify auscultation, we can’t avoid amplifying the volume of environmental noise at the same time. Therefore, if our regular practice takes place in a noisy environment, Thinklabs ONE could create issues.
In terms of connectivity, Thinklabs ONE enables the uploading of auscultations to iOS, Android, Mac, or PC devices. It doesn’t provide built-in wireless connectivity, but thanks to its Thinklink adapter (included), we can connect it to our devices.
What’s the current price of Thinklabs ONE? Check it out here
3. Eko Stethoscope with CORE attachment
Electronic stethoscope Eko Core is different to everything we have seen so far. Very different!
To begin with, Eko Core is not a stethoscope in itself. It’s an addition, an accessory to the traditional acoustic stethoscope that turns it into a digital one. The user will have to remove the stethoscope’s chest piece and replace it with Eko Core. Then, the user will connect the adapter tube (included) to the other extreme of Eko Core, which will, in turn, connect the stethoscope’s acoustic chest piece.
As we can see, we are sort of bypassing the stethoscope. Eko Core offers the advantage of allowing you to use the stethoscope in analogic or electronic modes at the touch of a single button.
The electronic model features 40x amplification, an environmental noise reduction system, a rechargeable battery with 9 hours of stand-alone time, and Bluetooth connectivity. Also, it supports all smartphones and includes a web control panel that will allow us to share and view auscultations, and even to live-stream them (for telemedicine or educational uses).
3. Eko Duo Stethoscope
The Echo Duo takes the final leap. This electronic stethoscope features optional wireless operation, allowing you to visualize auscultation sounds and ECG data live from your phone or laptop using the Eko app.
Despite its small size, the Duo boasts 60x amplification, all while fitting in your pocket with ease. It can be used as a pocket ECG or stethoscope, with or without headphones.
The Duo only offers 9 hours of battery life before needing a charge, however. That said, it does offer wireless induction charging, making it easier to set it down and recharge over breaks with fewer cables and hassle. It is a solid choice.
Check out the Eko Duo on Amazon for the best pricing:
These models of electronic stethoscopes are the most popular and the best-selling electronic stethoscopes of 2021. There are a couple more models we’ve seen over the years, but they are generally stethoscopes that have since become obsolete (such as Littmann 3000 Electronic or Welch Allyn Elite™ Electronic).
In case you aren’t ready to join the digital revolution, maybe you will be interested in my ultimate stethoscopes guide:
See also: The Definitive Stethoscopes buying Guide
And how about you? Do you know of any other electronic stethoscopes that are worth reviewing?
Share your experience with us in the comments below!
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