A team of engineering students at Johns Hopkins, with help from James West, an accomplished inventor and professor at the university, have been working on creating a stethoscope that would work inside of space ships. The International Space Station is the closest thing we have to a proper space ship, and while you can make a pretty cool music video inside, it’s actually quite noisy because of all the equipment. The body’s sounds, such as heartbeats and wheezing of the lungs, are essentially drowned out, making it a lot more difficult to perform auscultation than inside a doctor’s office on Earth.
The team used a number of strategies to attenuate ambient noise from the signal, making the device useful in earthly scenarios like combat, emergency situations, and maybe even loud emergency rooms
From Johns Hopkins:
Together, they developed a stethoscope that uses both electronic and mechanical strategies to help the device’s internal microphone pick up sounds that are clear and discernible – even in the noisy spacecraft, and even when the device is not placed perfectly correctly on the astronaut’s body.
The device also includes many other performance-enhancing improvements, including low power consumption, rechargeable batteries, mechanical exclusion of ambient noise and a suction cup, so that it sticks firmly onto the patient’s chest, says [student Shin Shin] Cheng.
West also plans to use the device to record infants’ heart and lung sounds in developing countries as part of a project that will attempt to develop a stethoscope that knows how to identify the typical wheezing and crackling breath sounds associated with common diseases. This would allow on-site medics to help make preliminary automated diagnoses.
JHU press release: New ‘Out of This World’ Space Stethoscope Valuable Here on Earth, Too…