Smartphones turned into electronic stethoscopes to record heartbeats

An app is allowing thousands of people to upload their heart sounds, which could one day allow home diagnosis of heart conditions

We may soon be able to diagnose cardiac problems at home using ordinary smartphones to record the sounds of our heart beating.

An app that lets people record their heart sounds has been found to make recordings of high-enough quality that you can hear your own heart beating, reported Pablo Lamata from King’s College London at New Scientist Live today.

When doctors listen to the heart using an ordinary stethoscope, they may be able to diagnose conditions such as heart failure, the irregular beat of atrial fibrillation or heart murmurs – when blood doesn’t flow properly through the heart’s valves.

The next step is to see if this “electronic stethoscope” could used to make medical diagnoses, said Lamata, who is part of a group developing the approach.

Some smartwatches can measure heart rate and the heart’s electrical activity. And people can already use phone apps to record their heart sounds.

Lamata’s app, called Echoes, is providing the first large-scale database of such sound recordings, connected with some basic personal information on the users.

Echoes tells people to sit in a quiet room leaning slightly forward – and to place their phone’s microphone at four different sites on their chest to make a short recording.

The sound is turned into a visual display, known as a waveform, so users can see as well as hear their heart sounds. At the