Could this be every doctor's dream-gizmo - a stethoscope that is equipped to self-detect hidden heart problems? Irish researchers hope that this hi-end steth, that may lead to rapid diagnosis of coronary artery disease, will have docs queueing up for it.
Dr Scott Rickard, from University College Dublin is an expert in audio identification techniques. His expertise brought him to the attention of FBI where he pioneered an eavesdropping technology, which can identify a speaker's location in a crowded room.
AdvertisementWith the help of two closely spaced microphones, it was possible to separate and localise an arbitrary number of speakers.
"So if you were in a room and 10 people were speaking, you could tell who said what, when," the BBC quoted Dr Rickard as saying.
But detecting heart disease just by listening is a more difficult exercise.
The research team led by Dr Rickard has designed and built a new "super" stereo stethoscope that uses six microphones instead of one.
Rickard said: "It is essentially just six little round microphones about the size of a US quarter, connected to a computer.
"On the screen you can see the lub, dub sounds of your heart, a little peak for the lub and a little peak for the dub evolve across the screen."
The sounds hidden between these peaks can significantly tell about heart disease.
Rickard uses a musical analogy to describe them.
"We might all hope that our hearts sound like Mozart, unfortunately at some stage they might sound like Metallica.
"We are building a detector that basically tells the difference between Mozart and Metallica - that might seem easy but it's not," he said.
Currently, a team of cardiologists at St Vincent's hospital in Dublin are testing the stethoscope and collecting data to boost its scientific credentials.
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