Stethoscopes for Hearing Aids: What Are the Options?
Medical professionals with hearing loss often struggle with auscultation (or listening to the vital sounds of the body in order to examine and diagnose). But thanks to advances in technology, there are several solutions available on the market today. Below, we explore the options for medical professionals with hearing loss, from amplified stethoscopes to stethoscopes for hearing aids.
For medical professionals who don’t mind removing their hearing aids when using their stethoscope, an amplified model is an option. An amplified stethoscope is also a solid choice for medical professionals who don’t necessarily need to wear hearing aids, but who do have trouble listening to the low frequency sounds of the human body.
Just as the name suggests, amplified stethoscopes take these noises and increase the decibel level to make them more audible. At first glance, amplified stethoscopes may look just like the regular version, but the head of the stethoscope features buttons and a digital screen that can be used to take a reading. There’s also the Thinklabs One Digital Stethoscope, a relatively new design that plugs directly into a pair of headphones.
For those with significant hearing loss, an amplified stethoscope may not increase the decibel level enough to take a good reading. These stethoscopes also won’t be tuned to your specific case of hearing loss in the way that hearing aids are.
Hearing Aids and Stethoscopes
Stethoscopes for hearing aids depend on the style of aids involved. There are several main types of hearing aids: completely in-the-canal (CIC) or mini CIC, in-the-canal, in-the-ear, behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-canal or receiver-in-the-ear hearing aids. For those with in-canal or in-ear hearing aids, there are special adaptors called stethomate tips that replace the ear pieces on regular stethoscopes to make them compatible with the hearing aid. On the other hands, some BTE hearing aids feature a plastic fitting called an audio shoe that can connect directly to an audio cable that plugs right into the stethoscope to transmit the sound.
The Thinklabs One mentioned above can actually be used with hearing aids if you connect over-ear or on-ear headphones to the digital stethoscope. The large design of these headphone styles is usually big enough to accommodate the hearing aid, according to the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss. A special pair of headphones is also available for the Cardionics E-Scope II Electronic Stethoscope, which can be plugged into the audio jack on the stethoscope to make it compatible with hearing aids.
Depending on the brand of your hearing aid, you might also be able to procure a transmitter, such as the Cochlear Mini-Microphone, which can transmit sound directly from the Thinklabs One to your hearing aids. Your hearing aid company will be able to advise you on your options. You may also need to bring in your audiologist and stethoscope company to figure out the best solution for your needs.
If you decide to go the second route and leave your hearing aids in as you use your stethoscope, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, the typical range that hearing aids are designed to amplify starts at a much higher baseline than the sounds you will be listening for during an examination. Therefore, you might want to have your hearing aid provider program a special setting into your hearing aids that will emphasize the low frequency sounds you will be listening for.
You might also find it useful to mute your hearing aids altogether while using the stethoscope so you don’t pick up all the background noise. Obviously, this will only work if you don’t need your hearing aids to listen to the stethoscope in the first place.
It may take several tries to find a stethoscope set up that works well with your particular case of hearing loss, but don’t get discouraged if that happens. Your audiologist, hearing aid provider and stethoscope company make an expert team, and they’re all dedicated to helping you keep working at the same level you were previously. And our allheart customer support system is always happy to answer any questions you may have or help you find the perfect stethoscope.