The stethoscope is one of the most commonly used medical instruments. A stethoscope is an amazing instrument that used to non-invasively listen to the internal sounds of the human body including heart, lungs, intestines, and veins/arteries. The disc-shaped resonator is positioned against the part of the body that is being examined and the earpieces placed in the healthcare provider’s ears. The rubber tubing transmits the audible sounds. A stethoscope can be combined with a sphygmomanometer to measure blood pressure.
A French physician, René Laennec, invented the stethoscope in the early 1800’s. René Laennec needed a better way to listen to patients’ hearts without placing his ear on their chests. He especially didn’t like this format for listening to the heart of female patients. His early stethoscopes were tubes made from wood. Dr. Laennec named his new device the stethoscope because it means chest scope.
The original stethoscopes were monaural (designed for one ear). In the 1850’s the design changed to the modern binaural stethoscope we commonly see today. Binaural stethoscopes have two ear pieces with plastic or rubber ends for comfort.
Today’s stethoscopes come with a range of features and in many styles to match the needs of all medical providers.
Stethoscopes range from low cost disposable stethoscopes to fully featured electronic stethoscopes. Some stethoscopes are tunable allowing the healthcare provider to hear high or low frequency sounds by changing pressure on the chestpiece. High-end, electronic stethoscopes amplify sounds. Some electronic stethoscopes can record and save patient exams and transmit sounds via Bluetooth to nearby devices.
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