Stethoscopes are relatively simple instruments. Despite all the advances in medical tools – automatic blood pressure monitors, electronic ear thermometers, portable medical records – the timeless stethoscope is still wrapped firmly around the neck of every doctor in the world.
Acoustic stethoscopes are more common than electronic models. They operate by transmitting sound from the chestpiece though air-filled tubes to the listener’s ears. No matter what the specific brand or model, all modern stethoscopes consist of three basic parts:
The chestpiece includes the diaphragm on one side and a bell (hollow cup) on the other side. The bell is used for listening to low frequency sounds, while the diaphragm is used for listening to higher frequency sounds.
The hollow rubber tubing transmits sound from the chestpiece to the headset. Some stethoscope manufacturers allow you to choose the color and length of the tubing (typically between 22-28 inches).
The binaurals are what takes the sound from the tubing and delivers it to the doctor’s ears. Eartips attach at the ends of each binaural for a comfortable fit. They also work to seal and isolate the internal sounds of the patient from background noise.
The most common stethoscope replacement parts are the rubber components, since over time they will get brittle and crack. All the metal parts are virtually indestructible to normal use. However, even they can get bent, stepped on, or even lost. The biggest factor in how often you’ll need to order replacement parts is the quality and workmanship of the stethoscope. Simply put, high quality stethoscopes are built to last. It is very true that “you get what you pay for” not only in terms of acoustical performance, but also in terms of long term durability.