AUDIO PROCESSING SYSTEM ALLOWS PHYSICIANS TO MAKE BETTER SOUND-BASED DIAGNOSIS
Thomas Morrow M.D.
The stethoscope is a symbol that identifies health care providers from every other profession—and for good reason: the medical profession depends on hearing sounds quieter than a whisper, more than any other profession on earth. The act of using a stethoscope is termed auscultation, and virtually every patient seen by a physician has this procedure performed.
The sounds of wheezing identifies a child with asthma; lub-dub over the upper arm measures blood pressure; rales and crackles identify heart failure; decreased breath sounds identify pneumonia; the swish sound over a heart identifies a murmur, and so on.
The stethoscope allows physicians, nurses, and paramedical personnel to hear these sounds and more. But what happens when you cannot hear any of these sounds due to a loud environment such as a busy emergency department, ambulance, sporting event, or helicopter? I can tell you from personal experience that using a stethoscope in a helicopter—something I did while serving as a physician in the US Air Force—is virtually impossible. Suddenly, blood pressure was unobtainable; breath sounds were totally overcome by the blades of the helicopter and even talking became a yelling contest.
And lets not forget we are rapidly moving to the new world of telemedicine where a doctor cannot be in the same room as the patient. In these circumstances how can sounds be accurately transmitted from the patient to the physician?
Bongiovi Medical and Health Technologies, a privately held company in Port St. Lucie Florida, thinks it has the answer. Drawing from the music world, the founder, Tony Bongiovi , a legendary music producer and inventor, is combining advanced audio processing with medical tools to allow auscultation to occur in remote and noisy environments in a way here-to-for unimaginable!
The brain of this process is the medical digital power station or MDPS. It is an FDA approved version of the award-winning Bongiovi DPS used for audio processing in consumer audio devices. It contains an algorithm that is specifically calibrated for medical applications. The foundation technology of the MDPS is basically an advanced dynamic range controller. This means it controls the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds in a signal. It is different than a simple volume control in that this has to be done in a manner that does not create artifacts or unwanted changes in volume for the listener—something critically important in medical settings.
The MDPS can process heart, lung, vascular, and other biological sounds so that they can be heard on not just the traditional binaurals but also on laptop computers, speakers, and even low-cost headphones.
But, this technology can also be used in other applications such as human voice. The human auditory cortex, the part of the brain devoted to processing sound, is particularly sensitized to the frequency spectrum associated with human voice. But these same frequencies are often “polluted” by machinery and other noises of modern world living. Think of how often, when talking on a cell phone in windy conditions, the other person complains of not being able to hear your voice. Now consider critical communication during a medical emergency during a hurricane!
By processing voice through this same system, (think of a paramedic at the hurricane, a fire or in a subway) the person on the other end can “hear” more clearly.
Bongiovi Medical again shows how small companies can change the way we practice medicine in our rapidly evolving medical delivery system.