Cough Sounds Recorded via Smart Devices as Useful Non-Invasive Digital Biomarkers of Aspiration Risk: A Case Report

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Dec 2;21(23):8056. doi: 10.3390/s21238056.


Spirometer measurements can reflect cough strength but might not be routinely available for patients with severe neurological or medical conditions. A digital device that can record and help track abnormal cough sound changes serially in a noninvasive but reliable manner would be beneficial for monitoring such individuals. This report includes two cases of respiratory distress whose cough changes were monitored via assessments performed using recordings made with a digital device. The cough sounds were recorded using an iPad (Apple, Cupertino, CA, USA) through an embedded microphone. Cough sounds were recorded at the bedside, with no additional special equipment. The two patients were able to complete the recordings with no complications. The maximum root mean square values obtained from the cough sounds were significantly reduced when both cases were diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. In contrast, higher values became apparent when the patients demonstrated a less severe status. Based on an analysis of our two cases, the patients' cough sounds recorded with a commercial digital device show promise as potential digital biomarkers that may reflect aspiration risk related to attenuated cough force. Serial monitoring aided the decision making to resume oral feeding. Future studies should further explore the clinical utility of this technique.

Keywords: aspiration pneumonia; automatic cough segmentation; case report; cough; digital technology; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Cough* / diagnosis
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine
  • Humans
  • Sound*
  • Spirometry


  • Biomarkers