Background: Respiratory sound analysis represents a research topic of growing interest in recent times. In fact, in this area, there is the potential to automatically infer the abnormalities in the preliminary stages of a lung dysfunction. Methods: In this paper, we propose a method to analyse respiratory sounds in an automatic way. The aim is to show the effectiveness of machine learning techniques in respiratory sound analysis. A feature vector is gathered directly from breath audio and, thus, by exploiting supervised machine learning techniques, we detect if the feature vector is related to a patient affected by a lung disease. Moreover, the proposed method is able to characterise the lung disease in asthma, bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and lower or upper respiratory tract infection. Results: A retrospective experimental analysis on 126 patients with 920 recording sessions showed the effectiveness of the proposed method. Conclusion: The experimental analysis demonstrated that it is possible to detect lung disease by exploiting machine learning techniques. We considered several supervised machine learning algorithms, obtaining the most interesting performance with the neural network model, with an F-Measure of 0.983 in lung disease detection and equal to 0.923 in lung disease characterisation, increasing the state-of-the-art performance.
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