If your behind-the-ear hearing aid is equipped with a telecoil (ie, circuitry that picks up electromagnetic induction signals), you could plug a silhouette connection to the stethoscope (see Figure 7). The silhouettes are placed behind the hearing aids, and the signal is transmitted wirelessly. The listener must change the hearing aid program to the telecoil program setting. Again, the audiologist should verify the telecoil circuity can produce the needed low frequencies.
Wireless Connections: No stethoscopes transmit a Bluetooth signal directly to hearing aids. If a hearing aid user wants a wireless connection, a gateway device that can transit a signal to the hearing aid wirelessly from a digital stethoscope (see Figure 8) might do the trick. Again, the audiologist should verify the hearing aid can transmit the needed low frequencies. This solution can work for cochlear implant users as well.
The student with hearing loss who must learn to use a stethoscope is different from an experienced health care worker who gradually experiences hearing loss after practicing for years. A student does not know what they are listening for and may not be able to judge if they are hearing adequately. Such students should be encouraged to obtain an amplified stethoscope with a second listener port that an instructor can plug into and listen with the student. This will allow the instructor to judge whether the student is hearing adequately through the amplified stethoscope by asking the student to describe the signals they hear.
If your health care setting typically provides stethoscopes, the workplace should purchase an amplified stethoscope for you, too. If not, you will need to supply your own device.
Finally, if you haven’t yet purchased hearing aids, let the audiologist know you are a stethoscope user so the hearing aid recommendation can be at least partly based on ease of access to sounds through a stethoscope.
Q&A with a Hearing Loss Expert
The author interviewed Catherine Palmer, PhD, to discuss hearing issues relevant to our challenges as emergency physicians. She is president of the American Academy of Audiology and an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh.