6 Best Stethoscopes | March 2017
- chestpiece is made of stainless steel
- wide frequency range
- very comfortable to wear
- lifetime manufacturer's warranty
- stethoscope is latex-free
- very lightweight design
- tube design prevents noise interference
- special-procedures adapter is included
- available in several colors and styles
An Acoustic Tool Of The Trade
If it's just about time for your annual physical or you require a trip to the doctor's office, it's likely that your doctor will use a series of tools to determine your current state of general health. You'll more than likely see your physician use an otoscope to look inside your ear canals, a scale to check your weight, a reflex hammer to check for neurological abnormalities, and a stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat and breathing.
It is the stethoscope that is most closely associated with a trip to the doctor's office, particularly for kids who need regular checkups. Regardless of the situation, the stethoscope is a necessary part of the medical tool arsenal that a doctor has at his or her disposal.
The stethoscope is an acoustic medical device for listening to the internal sounds of a person or animal's body parts. This listening action is often referred to as auscultation. A doctor or nurse will often use a stethoscope to listen for abnormal rhythms of a person's heartbeat, breathing irregularities, compromised lung functions, intestinal noises, and to monitor blood pressure.
Stethoscopes are composed of three major parts that include the chest piece, tubing, and the headset. The chest piece consists of both a diaphragm and bell. The diaphragm is made up of a plastic piece residing inside a silver metal piece. It is this silver metal piece that actually touches a patient. The bell detects sounds at low pitches, while the diaphragm detects those at high pitches. The tubing is usually made of a combination of sturdy rubber and metal. It connects the chest piece to the headset.
The tubing is primarily responsible for carrying the sounds, detected by both the bell and diaphragm, directly to the headset. The rubber portion of the tubing connects to metal tubing closest to the headset, which ultimately directs sound to the doctor's ears. Eartips at the end of the metal tubing are usually insulated with rubber to minimize the impact of surrounding noise on a doctor's interpretation of the sounds he or she is listening to when examining a patient. Just as the eardrum vibrates when sound waves pass through it, so does the diaphragm on a stethoscope's chest piece. The vibrations move through the rubber tubing, through the metal tubes, and into a doctor's ears.
The two major types of stethoscopes include acoustic and electronic. Acoustic stethoscopes are the most familiar and operate via sound transmission from their chest pieces. Electronic stethoscopes are capable of amplifying a detected body sound; they operate wirelessly, and can even record sound waves for review on a computer if necessary.
This device makes individual body sounds easy to distinguish and it's not painful to the patient. Although the stethoscope is usually associated with the medical profession, it can also serve other purposes. For example, a mechanic can use the device to diagnose engine problems with an automobile by listening to the sounds of its moving parts. It can also be used to detect leaks inside of a vacuum chamber.
A Brief History Of The Stethoscope
The stethoscope was invented in France in 1816 by physician René Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris. Its original design was monaural (a single channel of sound coming from one position) and consisted of a long wooden tube.
Due to both the age and gender differences among his patients and the hands-on nature of his job, Laennec felt uncomfortable placing his ear directly against the chests of his patients. The wooden tube allowed Laennec to listen to a patient's heartbeat without making physical contact with his own body.
In 1852, George Philip Cammann perfected his design of the binaural stethoscope for commercial production. This stethoscope was more durable than Laennec's design with individual earpieces so that the sound could reach both ears simultaneously. Cammann's design became the standard for the medical stethoscope that is still in use today.
Fast forward to the 1940s when Rappaport and Sprague redefined the standard for most other stethoscopes made during that time. Rappaport and Sprague devices were made with two sides, one used for listening to the respiratory system, while the other was used for the cardiovascular system. This design persisted for decades until it was finally abandoned around 2004.
By 2015, an open-source project for the 3D-printed stethoscope made the device much more affordable and accessible than ever before, particularly for developing countries.
Choosing A Stethoscope
When choosing a stethoscope, the particular profession you have in mind is an important consideration. A cardiologist, for example, would benefit from a stethoscope that can easily detect both high and low-pitched sounds, regardless of how faint they might be.
One must also be sure that the earpieces fit snugly and comfortably in the ears for the best accuracy when making a diagnosis. The tubing for your intended device should also be durable and well insulated in order to prevent external noise interference.
The best stethoscopes feature high-density chest pieces made from either steel or titanium for the best sound conduction. The chest piece should also be hand-polished on both its inside and outside for producing the most crisp sound possible.
The device is also available in an array of different colors, which is particularly useful for pediatricians who may be working with a lot of young kids.