A stethoscope is a medical instrument used to listen to sounds produced in the body, mainly in the lungs and heart. According to Inkwood Research, the global stethoscope market is projected to register a CAGR of 5.8% during the forecast period, 2023-2032, attributed to the increasing number of pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases. For instance, in the United States, around 697,000 people died due to heart disease in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Accordingly, our blog offers brief insights into different stethoscope types and their functioning:
Traditional Acoustic Stethoscopes
Invented more than two centuries ago, traditional acoustic stethoscopes are the most commonly used medical diagnostic devices. They are a simple, mechanical construction and a symbol of healthcare professionals. The parameters and construction of their components are supposed to influence the characteristics of the transmitted sound and its level. The components are earpieces, tubing, and chest piece.
- Chest Piece
The acoustic stethoscope chest piece comprises two parts, the diaphragm (disc) and the bell (hollow cup) placed against the patient for sensing sound. The bell transfers lower-frequency sounds, while the diaphragm transfers higher-frequency sounds.
Furthermore, advancements in acoustic stethoscope design have resulted in companies launching new single-head chest piece designs. These diaphragms have a one-sided chest piece and depend on user-applied pressure to switch between diaphragm and bell modes.
Stethoscope tubing is available in different varieties. There are tubing systems consisting of two tubes directly connected from the chest piece to each earpiece, bi-lumen tubes with two internal lumens integrated into a single-lumen design, and single-lumen tubes usually split into two tubes at the earpieces. Besides, each stethoscope tubing type has its own resonant frequency dependent on the internal width and length of the tubing.
When the stethoscope chest piece is placed on the patient, a closed circuit is formed, enabling sound energy to travel to the listener. Any break or air leak in this circuitry will completely block the sound transmission or decrease sound quality. The ear tip insertion angle, ear tip seal, and insertion pressure are the variables impacting this connection.
As per Inkwood Research, the traditional acoustic stethoscope segment projects lucrative growth opportunities, given the rising target patient population and the availability of advanced stethoscope-effective treatment options.
Electronic stethoscopes use advanced technologies to overcome the low sound levels (a disadvantage of acoustic stethoscopes) by amplifying body sounds electronically. They need the conversion of acoustic sound waves into electronic signals further transferred through uniquely designed circuitry and processed for optimal listening. Accordingly, the circuitry comprises a component that facilitates energy amplification and optimization for listening at various frequencies.
The circuitry enables the decoding, encoding, and digitization of the sound energy to have the ambient noise reduced and sent through headphones or speakers. Moreover, electronically transmitted sounds allow electronic stethoscopes to provide features like serial or audio data output, recording of sound clips, and wireless transmission.
According to our assessment, the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases and the integration of wireless technology in healthcare devices offer growth opportunities for the electronic stethoscope segment. Besides, the growing efforts to enhance accuracy and efficiency drive the adoption of electronic stethoscopes.
The fast-paced digitization in the healthcare industry has raised the demand for technologically advanced medical equipment. Smart stethoscopes have five low-frequency microphones inside a programmable head. The sixth microphone faces outward that collects the noise from the surrounding. Accordingly, an algorithm on the stethoscope’s microprocessor strips the ambient noise from the lung sounds.
Smart stethoscopes are cost-effective and user-friendly and are evolving as a modern homecare medical product. They help diagnose respiratory disorders and illnesses depending on heart rhythms. Given the frequent misdiagnoses of lung and heart sounds, smart AI-enabled stethoscopes are evaluated to help make precise and consistent interpretations. They also have the potential to minimize the number of unnecessary clinic visits. As a result, AI-powered smart stethoscope is evaluated to transform telemedicine.
Accordingly, several players are launching new products in the market. For instance, Sanolla Ltd received the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance in April 2022 for its smart infrasound stethoscope Voqx. In addition, StethoMe launched an AI wireless stethoscope in April 2020.
Stethoscope Market Viability: Rethinking Stethoscopes Digitally
The COVID-19 pandemic brought on fast-paced adoption and commoditization of telehealth. Digital stethoscopes saw a major rise in popularity during the pandemic, partly attributed to the need for social distancing and partly accredited to the prioritized importance of cardiovascular monitoring in COVID patients. They are considered a vital component of the physical and virtual exams, given their accurate readings. Besides, they are evaluated to broaden the diagnostic accuracy of virtual medicine.
Additionally, digital stethoscopes will facilitate accurate listening of the lungs, which further helps in diagnosing conditions like heart failure, COPD, and pneumonia. This will help frontline providers make critical decisions. The two notable digital stethoscopes medical practitioners use are Eko DUO ECG & Digital Stethoscope and 3M Littmann® CORE. Such factors and product developments propel global stethoscope market demands.
By Akhil Nair
Which is the prominent end-user in the global stethoscope market?
Hospitals are the prominent end-user in the global stethoscope market.
Which are the leading firms in the global stethoscope market?
Welch Allyn (Hill-Rom Holdings Inc), Medline Industries Inc, Heine Optotechnik GmbH & Co KG, etc., are among the leading firms in the global stethoscope market.