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Someday soon, MP3 recorders may replace stethoscopes, Canadian researchers say. Compared with traditional stethoscopes, MP3 recorders (such as the one shown here) may offer better sound quality.


In a study, researchers pitted stethoscopes against inexpensive, off-the-shelf MP3 recorders. By holding an MP3 recorder's microphone against the chests of patients, they recorded various respiratory sounds. What they heard was superior in sound quality to anything they heard with a stethoscope.

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Researchers transferred the MP3 recordings to a computer, which converted them into frequency curves. Computer analysis of the sounds found that each had a distinct pattern.


The MP3 recordings could be included in a patient's medical record for future comparisons or sent to specialists at remote locations for analysis. The development of more sophisticated software may offer more detailed clinical analysis of respiratory and possibly other clinical sounds, researchers say.


Researchers reported their findings at the Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society in Stockholm, Sweden, in September.