As an audiologist with hearing loss, I have learned many tips for finding the right amplified stethoscope that works well with hearing aids.
If you are working in the medical field, you may have run into the challenge of using a stethoscope with your hearing aids, particularly when performing auscultation.
Auscultation is the act of using a stethoscope to listen to the internal sounds of the body. Through auscultation, medical professionals can analyze heart and lung sounds for differential diagnosis, according to A.U. Bankaitis Smith’s article “20Q: Amplified stethoscopes for medical practitioners.”
A question often asked by hearing aid wearers is, “how should my hearing aids interface with the stethoscope?”
The challenge with auscultation and hearing loss is that heart and lung signals are very soft, low-frequency sounds. An amplified stethoscope helps compensate for hearing loss by amplifying bodily sounds. However, there is a limitation when coupled with hearing aids. For instance, the frequency bandwidth needed for auscultation extends well below the frequency region necessary for speech understanding. As an added challenge, auscultation is sometimes performed in noisy environments.
“The challenge with auscultation and hearing loss is that heart and lung signals are very soft, low frequency sounds.”
To determine a solution that best fits your needs, it is important that you and your audiologist work together. It is also important to be aware that heart and lung sounds might not be perceived the same when listening through hearing aids. Choosing the right stethoscope is dependent on your listening needs, the severity of your hearing loss, the type of hearing aids worn, and wireless accessories used.
Below are recommendations for set up with Phonak Marvel hearing aids.
Stethoscope earpieces are designed with an unoccluded ear canal in mind. Thus, the earpieces are competing for space occupied by hearing aids, according to Smith. One consideration is to use an amplified stethoscope with over-the-ear or on-ear headphones. This allows the hearing aids to remain in the ears during auscultation.
The configurations for an amplified stethoscope with headphones include:
It is possible to stream signals from a stethoscope to Phonak Marvel hearing aids. There are different setup options depending on the chosen stethoscope.
Regardless of the chosen stethoscope, consider these hearing aid factors:
In addition, consider these streaming factors:
There are multiple amplified stethoscopes on the market and each individual has unique listening needs. Therefore, a partnership between you and the audiologist is crucial in determining the right solution. You may need to practice and learn what to listen for. Bodily sounds may be perceived differently via the hearing aids than without them. If available, demo a stethoscope beforehand to ensure it meets your needs.