Characterization of microphones for snoring and breathing events analysis in mHealth.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most common sleep disorders, especially in elderly population. Despite its high prevalence and severe consequences, most patients remain undiagnosed due to serious limitations on the existing equipment. Efforts are being done to find cost-effective alternatives and mHealth solutions could play a key role. One promising approach in this context is the acoustic analysis of snoring. The sensor it requires is a microphone, which is widely available in different models and even integrated in smartphones. The objective of this work is to characterize and compare the responses of two commercial tracheal microphones and a mHealth-based microphone, as a proof-of-concept to evaluate their potential as sensors for OSA detection. To do that, we designed an experimental protocol to study OSA-related events (breaths, snores and apneas) simulated by 4 subjects. Test signals were simultaneously recorded with different microphones and posteriorly processed and analyzed. We accurately characterized the frequency response of the two commercial microphones, finding that one of them was too restrictive (bandwidth 50-250 Hz) and thus not suitable as snoring sensor for high-frequency acoustic analysis. Regarding smartphones, we studied the Samsung Galaxy S5 microphone. We found that, when located over the thorax, it provided quality signals comparable to those of tracheal microphones, with a broader frequency response. Further work is required, but this preliminary study suggests that acoustic analysis of snoring through mHealth solutions can be a feasible alternative to screen and monitor OSA patients at home.