Many of the tools of days gone by are now obsolete. However, stethoscopes remain a relevant and useful symbol of medicine and health care. Despite this, the old-fashioned manual stethoscope that we all have seen is meeting with competition. Now, electronic stethoscopes offer a new range of interesting benefits.
Could traditional stethoscopes be going the way of the dinosaurs? A mass transition in the healthcare industry to this new technology could be just a heartbeat away.
Old School Cool: The History of Manual Stethoscopes
The first stethoscopes date back to 1816, when doctors began use narrow hollow tubes to listen better to patients’ internal organs. Over the past two centuries, these became increasingly sophisticated. A single tube become a tube split into two so it could fit in both ears. Earpieces were added when rubber became a common and affordable material. By the mid-twentieth century, stethoscopes looked much like the ones that we now know.
Modern-style stethoscopes are long flexible tubes with a drum or chest piece that amplifies sounds from inside the body. They have two earpieces, one for each ear, that block out noises form the environment so health care workers can hear the internal working of our lungs, heart, intestines, or even blood vessels.
Traditional stethoscopes are more than mere tools. They are symbols of an entire profession. Doctors and nurses are commonly given them when they graduate form their college programs.
In addition, stethoscopes are often accessories. They now come in a variety of colors, from pink to common sports team themes. The chest pieces and other metal parts can be made in a variety of metallic colors or even prints. Many professionals even have their stethoscopes engraved to add a personal touch. However, a new style of stethoscope may be giving old-school stethoscopes some much-needed competition.
The Rise of Digital Stethoscopes
Digital stethoscopes have several key advantages over their traditional counterparts. First, the sound is highly amplified, making it easier to hear different nuances of the workings of our bodies. In addition, many have special sound filters that remove background noises that can make it difficult to discern the important sounds.
The incorporation of digital technology offers several other advantages. Many allow doctors to save different sound files, allowing them to be mailed to different consultants or even adding them to the patient record. Others can print out a file with the sound waves themselves, so every aspect of the cardiac or respiratory cycle can be examined in depth.
Digital stethoscopes offer a wide variety of undeniable benefits. However, they come with a few drawbacks as well. First, they are dependent on batteries. These can be expensive as well we difficult to change. In addition, they are more expensive than manual stethoscopes. This can be a drawback not just for medical students, but to doctors who often have to replace lost or misplaced stethoscopes.
Replacing Traditional Stethoscopes
With the many benefits and few drawbacks of electric digital stethoscopes, many people wonder whether a traditional one is still a good investment. However, there are no signs that traditional stethoscopes are anywhere near obsolescence.
Although we now have a much wider range of diagnostic tools than we did when the first stethoscopes were invented, there still remains a place for practicing the art of medicine. This begins with a skilled practitioner and a few humble tools such as the stethoscope. A growing number of specialists are choosing digital stethoscopes with a variety of benefits, but nurses, medical students, and other newcomers to the profession learn their craft with simple traditional tools.
Despite new technologies, both traditional and electric stethoscopes appear to be selling well. Although they are no longer the only tools available, they remain irreplaceable tools in many different health care fields. We can only expect to see more innovations in these and other medical tools in the coming years.