What is a stethoscope?

A stethoscope is a listening device used to listen inside the body, most commonly to the heart, the lungs, and the bowel.

 All stethoscopes have a few key components:

  • The listening piece often has two sides;
    • a diaphragm, which is the most commonly used side with a thin membrane that is stretched as it is pushed against the skin
      • This is good for listening to higher pitched sounds
    • A bell
      • this side looks like a small hollow, and is pressed firmly onto the skin
      • This is good for low pitched sounds
  • This listening piece is connected to a tube which goes up and is split into two earpieces.

When it comes to the heart, we use the stethoscope to listen for the normal heart sounds and to listen for murmurs. Sometimes, these noises are heard better at a certain stage of breathing, or with the patient in a certain position.

We can also use the stethoscope to listen to the lungs, for signs of fluid or infection, and the bowels, to see if the bowel is still working actively.

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