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Using a Stethoscope with a Cochlear Implant

Linn Tearney

May 12, 2008

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Question

I have recently had a cochlear implant, significantly increasing my hearing ability. I would like to see if I can now use a stethoscope but am having difficulty figuring out what will be best for me. I am a practice nurse and would use it to carry out manual blood pressure checks and checking for chest infections, particularly in respiratory patients.

Answer

Although I'm not a stethoscope expert, I have bilateral cochlear implants myself and specialize in assistive listening products for individuals who hear with cochlear implants. I have done research on compatible stethoscopes for medical professionals and found that there are some options that work well. Since most commercial stethoscopes have "ear buds" that are placed in the ear canals to capture sounds, this option obviously won't work for the typical cochlear implant recipient. In order to evaluate heart, lung or bowel sounds, a cochlear implant user will need a special stethoscope that allows the individual to couple with the processor and/or provide visual display of this information. Many of the sounds medical professionals will need to hear are in frequencies outside of the speech range.Therefore, it may be necessary for the programming audiologist to expand the frequency range to enable one to hear these sounds.More information about this type of adjustment can be obtained through the manufacturer of the cochlear implant system being used.

An excellent resource for support and information is a non-profit organization called Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL). Their website has a stethoscope link that can be accessed from their homepage at www.amphl.org. The direct link is www.amphl.org/stethoscopes.php You will find information about using various assistive listening devices to couple the cochlear implant processor with a "specialty" stethoscope.

A stethoscope with direct audio input capability (DAI) such as Cardionics' E-Scope II allows one to connect the stethoscope to their cochlear implant processor and/or hearing aid with a patch cable or inductive accessory such as a silhouette or neckloop. There is also a device available that can augment what you are hearing with visual readouts of heart/breath sounds used in conjunction with a PC or PDA. More information about Cardionics products can be found at www.cardionics.com/stethoscopes/

Linn Tearney is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient who resides in Denver, CO. Linn has worked for Cochlear Americas, manufacturer of the Nucleus cochlear implant system, for the past 12 years. She has 16 years of first-hand experience with her own cochlear implant and provides peer support and information about assistive listening products and other ways to help maximize CI recipients' hearing outcomes.


Linn Tearney


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