What do the sounds from your ICD mean?

Are you familiar with your ICD sounds and alerts? If your ICD is beeping, it could be a cause for concern. Understanding the sounds your ICD makes and what they signify is essential in managing any anxieties about your device. Familiarising yourself with ICD sounds and alerts can provide peace of mind and ensure you respond appropriately when you hear them.

Just having an ICD may already have made you anxious, so knowing what sounds your device may emit is well worth knowing so you don’t panic if you should ever hear them.

Many SCA survivors receive an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (and/or pacemaker) shortly after their event, and we all know that time can be a bit of a blur. You may have been lucky and got a full run-through of the device and its features.  If you didn’t, you can always read the instruction guide, but it won’t be able to show you the built-in alerting features, aka patient notifiers. 

Don’t panic, though. Patient alerts are rare, and your ICD will be generally silent. However, in certain situations, it may make sounds or vibrations to alert you of conditions you need to know. 

If you get an alert, you do not need to attend A&E unless you feel unwell.

The alerts can vary depending on the manufacturer, device, and individual programming.  Some devices make sounds (generally beeps), some vibrate, some do both, and some don’t make any!

If you want to know what yours does, why not ask at your next checkup and maybe even have a demonstration?

ICD Sound and Alert Reasons

Alerts made by a device will vary depending on the manufacturer and device type, but there are common reasons, and these are listed below:

  1. Your battery life is low
  2. There is a fault with the device or lead(s)
  3. You have received a therapeutic shock
  4. There is a magnetic field disabling or interfering with the device
  5. The device has been unable to communicate with your home monitor longer than the recommended time (2 weeks?)
ManufacturerAlert TypeToneComment
MedtronicAudible6-second vibration
16 seconds of silence
6 second vibration
10 seconds silence
Then the pattern repeats    
Solid tone – magnet alert tone
NB. Tones are programmable
Boston ScientificAudible16 tones repeated every 6 hoursMRI scan permanently disables beeper tone.
If this occurs, recommended patients follow up on Remote Monitoring
AbbottVibratory6-second vibration
16 seconds of silence
6-second vibration
10 seconds silence
Then the pattern repeats    
New Gallant models have an audible alert facility
BiotronikNo Alert  N/A  Relies on Remote Monitoring
Sorin/MicroportNo Alert   N/A    

Low Battery

When the device battery starts to approach the end of its life, it periodically emits a warning sound. This alert is usually at the same time of day and typically occurs 3-6 months before battery depletion.

Device or Lead fault

If your device has a fault or something is wrong with a lead, an alert will also be emitted.

If either of the situations above arises, you should contact your ICD clinic as soon as possible so that they may investigate the alert further and take any remediable action.

Therapeutic Shock

If you have received a therapeutic shock and your device is beeping, you should contact your ICD clinic immediately. Not all devices beep after a shock, and not all patients need to see a Doctor after receiving a shock, but if you feel unwell or are anxious, it is always worth contacting your ICD clinic. They will be able to give you further information, i.e., whether the shock was appropriate or not.

Planning for a shock is always worth doing so you and your family know what to do should it happen.

Read more at ICD Shocks

Magnetic Field

If you get an alarm because of a temporary situation, i.e. you are in a magnetic field, you should try to rectify the situation as quickly as possible by moving away from the source.  You should be aware that if the ICD sound continues, your device may be disabled and not activated should you require it.  This is a potentially dangerous situation, but you should not panic – the likelihood of you needing your device to activate at that precise moment is extremely low. However, you should attempt to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. If the alarm continues after moving away from the triggering source, you should contact your ICD clinic immediately.

Read more at: ICD Electromagnetic Compatibility

ICD/Home Monitor Communication Failure

If you have a home monitor and the ICD has been unable to communicate with it for a prolonged period of time, you may receive an alarm. For short holidays and breaks, the general advice is not to take your home monitor with you, but if you are away for longer, it would be worth checking with your ICD clinic first so that you are not alarmed unnecessarily.

If you get an alert and are away from easy access to your usual clinic and need to find an alternative, you may be able to get help from one of the ICD supplier’s other centres:

Read more at: ICD Support Centre Locator

The Sounds

It seems that the manufacturers of ICDs aren’t very forthcoming about the sounds and alerts their devices make, but we have sourced some recordings and other articles that you may find interesting.

Please be aware that these are just examples of sounds you may hear from your device and may differ from your actual one.  It’s also worth reiterating that these alerts and sounds can be programmed for each individual and vary from clinic to clinic and patient to patient depending on experience, circumstances and operational factors. 

If you want to know exactly what your ICD sounds like, ask for a demonstration the next time you visit your ICD clinic.


Medtronic official website

Medtronic Official

Boston Scientific

Abbott (formerly St Judes)

Historically, Abbott has not had ICD sounds and alerts, but we have heard that the Gallant model has introduced them. We do not have any recordings, so if you do or can get them, please get in touch.

Abbott – Understanding the Patient Notifier


No patient alerts are emitted from their devices


No patient alerts are emitted from their devices

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