Technology for Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss

Scopes for the hearing impaired can simply amplify or provide a visual representation of body sounds..

Medical professionals have always relied on hearing to assess the internal sounds of the body. Anytime your physician or other health care provider has used a stethoscope to listen to your heart, lungs, or bowel sounds they are completing an important part of the medical examination called auscultation. This requires not only clinical skill but the ability to hear those soft sounds that need to be heard to make the correct diagnosis.

For medical professionals with hearing loss, the routine use of traditional stethoscopes creates several challenges. The presence of a hearing loss may prohibit the ability to actually hear necessary heart, lung, and/or bowel sounds for differential diagnosis. There are amplified stethoscopes designed to compensate for hearing loss, but, medical professionals who are current hearing aid users may have difficulty finding stethoscopes that are compatible with their hearing aids and have to constantly switch between the use of hearing aids and the stethoscope. For some medical professionals with more severe hearing loss, a simple amplified stethoscope may still not be loud enough for successful use.

Medical professionals with hearing loss who are not current users of hearing aids should consider using one of several stand-alone amplified stethoscopes. These are battery-operated, electronic stethoscopes specifically designed to amplify body sounds for those health care professionals with hearing loss who are not current wearers of hearing instruments.

Some examples of commercially available amplified stethoscopes include the Welch Allyn Master Elite, the 3M Littman, Electromax, and the Cardionics E-Scope II. As stand-alone products, these stethoscopes are not designed to interface with hearing instruments. They are used just as a traditional stethoscope with the exception that amplified stethoscopes provides amplification of heart and breath sounds.

Each device offers the ability to switch between the two listening modes; the bell mode amplifies the much lower frequency heart sounds whereas the diaphragm mode amplifies breath sounds, which are relatively higher in frequency as compared to heart sounds.

Medical professionals with custom hearing aids (ITE, CIC, ITC) can purchase special ear pieces for the stethoscope to act as an adapter between the hearing aids and the stethoscope. This is not usually a successful option as there are often difficulties with fit, feedback, and positioning.

For those with BTE or cochlear implants, there are a few options to interface it to a stethoscope. For example, the BTE wearer can use a silhouette that provides an induction signal for a hearing aid telecoil. Another option is to use a direct audio input cable to connect the hearing aid audio boot to the output of the electronic stethoscope. A BTE earmold can be modified with a dimple (or well) in the heel of the earmold that will accept the stethoscope ear tip.

It centers the sound outlet of the stethoscope with the vent hole in the earmold, allowing the sound to go more directly into the ear canal.

People using cochlear implants can now access amplified stethoscopes via direct audio input cable to the speech processor or by using an induction signal to an ear level speech processor's telecoil.

Currently, some hearing aids don't amplify sounds in the low frequencies, and others are not programmed maximally for low frequency emphasis, such as that needed for heart and breath sounds. Some people have observed that when a programmable hearing aid is programmed to amplify the necessary low frequencies, then interfacing the hearing aid to the stethoscope is the only remaining issue. Appropriate ''stethoscope programming'' for this specific purpose is encouraged, and can easily be accomplished in many hearing aids with multiple memory functions – it is important to work with an audiologist to find the best solutions and to be aware that there are many factors to consider; trial and error is not unusual for this process.


Bankaitis, A.U. (April 5, 2010).  Amplified Stethoscope Options for Professionals with Hearing Loss. Audiology Online. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from 

Morris, Rebecca. (August 4, 2003). COPE WITH SCOPES: Stethoscopes and Hearing Aids - What are the Options? Audiology Online. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from 

Cardionics E-Scope. (n.d.) Retrieved December 10, 2014 from 

Moreland, et al. (February 2013). Deafness Among Physicians and Trainees: A National Survey. Academic Medicine, Vol 88 No. 2. 

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