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Discover How It Works: Stethoscopes

At some point in their lives, most Australians have had an encounter with a stethoscope during a doctor’s appointment, whether as a child or as an adult. Stethoscopes can be used to listen out for a range of health issues, because you can learn a lot from listening to a person’s chest. 

This piece of diagnostic equipment has been used as far back as the 19th century as the very first stethoscope was invented in 1816 by Rene Laennec and appeared very similar to an ear trumpet. Rene Laennec’s initial need for the invention was to create doctor-patient distance, both for courtesy and hygiene reasons.

Essentially, when it comes to stethoscopes, it’s all about the vibrations.

 

What do you mean, vibrations?

To this day, stethoscopes are relatively simple devices. The acoustic stethoscope is the model that is typically used, and surprisingly only has a handful of crucial parts.

The bell and the diaphragm: the part of the stethoscope that touches a patient’s skin is called the bell. It is flat and round, and covered by a thin layer of plastic called the diaphragm. Like a human’s diaphragm, the stethoscope’s diaphragm vibrates as sound occurs in the body. The bell and the diaphragm work together to pick up different sounds in order to diagnose any issues.

Tubing: connected to the bell and the diaphragm runs the tubing, a Y-shaped arrangement of rubber tubing that runs to the headset. The vibrations and sounds travel up through one tube, splitting into two to let the listener hear the vibrations in both ears.

Headset:  the rubber tubing connects to eartips that are made of soft rubber. The soft rubber is not only comfortable, but it creates a seal that helps block out any noise.

 

What do the vibrations sound like?

There are two noises that the listener will be looking for, a lub and a dub. The lub sound is created by the closure of the mitral and tricuspid valves while the dub sound is created after blood leaves the hearts and the aortic and pulmonary valves close.

 

While the classic stethoscope is the most in-use model currently, there are a full range of innovative stethoscopes available today. Including electronic stethoscopes used to electronically enhance and amplify body sounds, cardiology stethoscopes designed for superior quality and versatility, paediatric stethoscopes for little ones and foetal stethoscopes that look similar to an ear trumpet designed to listen to the heart sounds of a foetus while still in the womb.

 

If you have any questions about our extensive range of stethoscopes, please contact our friendly staff at Team Med today.

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