Eko Stethoscope Helps Doctors With Hearing Loss
Few images of medical competence are more familiar than a doctor or nurse with a stethoscope around the neck. A trained medical ear can discern all kinds of critical information from what might only sound like a simple heartbeat to you or me. But what if a physician has less than perfect hearing?
The Eko Core stethoscope amplifies sound, works with hearing aids, and transmits real-time heartbeat data to a smartphone app.
Eko Devices, Inc., first addressed the needs of clinicians with hearing loss several years ago. In 2015, it introduced the Eko Core, an electronic stethoscope which provided up to 40 dB of amplification for the listener.
But that wasn't all. The product also collected, digitized and transmitted massive quantities of additional heartbeat data to the cloud and made it available on a connected smartphone app. Time Magazine was so impressed that it named the Eko Core one of the top 25 inventions of the year.
Fast forward to 2019, and Eko has taken another step forward in helping medical professionals listen to your heart. The new Eko DUO ECG performs an instant electrocardiogram as the clinician listens with the attached Core digital stethoscope. Simultaneous ECG tracings and heart sounds provide an effective bedside combination for analyzing cardiac or pulmonary function.
Listen to the heart with hearing aids
Deena Ramahi, a nurse at Aurora St. Lukes Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, started using an Eko digital stethoscope in nursing school. It especially came in handy when she found herself on the floor, surrounded by noise. “I wasn’t very good at hearing the lung and heart sounds,” she says. “When I got the Eko, I was able to hear things better and more clearly and understand what I was listening to."
The Eko DUO ECG is a small handheld device placed on the patient's chest. DUO captures ECG intervals and systolic time intervals to detect heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AFib). It transmits results to the smartphone app for immediate analysis. And because the data is stored in a HIPAA-compliant cloud server, the patient can use the DUO ECG at home, while the medical professional monitors and analyzes results remotely.
The Eko DUO ECG transmits cardiac data to the smartphone app and to the cloud, enabling self-monitoring by the patient and real-time remote analysis by the clinician.
Eko has attracted competition from other suppliers of electronic stethoscopes and handheld ECG monitors. But it has used its hardware and software platform as a foundation for additional monitoring capabilities.
The company is currently writing software utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze heart sounds and EKG data for in-clinic screening and remote monitoring. Eko says its "cardiac-AI" decision support algorithms will flag heart murmurs, AFib, and ejection fraction measures that can more exactly diagnose—and even anticipate—cardiac ailments.
“One of the biggest problems in healthcare is that general practitioners so often miss heart murmurs that, if found earlier, would allow patients to get treatment before problems arise,” said Connor Landgraf, CEO of Eko.
Machine learning enhances a "musical ear"
Landgraf notes that traditional stethoscopes demand a highly trained "musical ear" that can separate subtle abnormalities from normal sounds. Machine learning has the potential to combine data from tens of thousands of heart sound patterns, analyze them, and identify abnormalities as the physician uses the stethoscope.
For example, Eko collaborated with the Mayo Clinic on an algorithm which, when combined with the Eko DUO, enables any doctor, nurse, or healthcare practitioner to listen to a patient’s chest and detect low ejection fraction (low EF), a sometimes-difficult-to-diagnose heart condition affecting an estimated seven million Americans.
And Eko is partnering with the Northwestern Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute on an AI algorithm designed to anticipate pathologic heart murmurs and valvular heart disease. “Eko’s platform could be a much simpler, lower cost way to identify patients with heart disease,” said James Thomas, MD, director of the Northwestern’s Center for Heart Valve Disease.
Hearing aid integration
In the meantime, Eko hasn't neglected its commitment to medical practitioners with hearing loss. The company has worked with top hearing aid manufacturers to install audio drivers designed specifically for hearing support.
Those drivers are designed to provide the kind of premium sound quality hearing aid users expect. The new Eko DUO ECG plus Core stethoscope now provides up to 60db audio amplification. It also integrates filters to reduce ambient noise. And with the Bluetooth-enabled Eko smartphone app, you can transmit heart sounds wirelessly—from audio recorded by the DUO ECG—directly to your Made-for-iPhone hearing aids.