Do It Yourself Stereophonic Stethoscope

Evolutionary Tinkering or Intelligent Design?



You don’t have to be a medical doctor to listen to a heart or lungs in 3-dimensional sound.

Years ago I built a simple little listening-tool. It seemed to me that we always listen to lungs from just one angle—the single small end of a stethoscope. Why not from two ends? two angles? So, I fumbled around and put together, in less than simple words, a stereo auscultation instrument. I soon found it good for examining little children, because, like myself and most other doctors, they love new gimmicks. But this one (I speak as a child psychiatrist) might well scare an autistic child! Anyway, here are the essential parts with instructions for your own assembly and use:

1. If you have two old binaural stethoscopes lying about, pull or cut them apart and reassemble them thus: Retaining the top part of one of the stethoscopes (the part with the spring fixture that keeps things in front of your face), run one tube with its own chest-piece separately up to each of your ears. That’s really two tubes and two chest-pieces, left and right, one for each ear, left and right. Got it? Presto! – one ‘stereophonic’ stethoscope.

2. Listen to any patient’s chest—front and back simultaneously. While listening, you may close your eyes, but caution: one-handed stethoscope-driving obviously not allowed; you must use both hands. Another explanatory picture? Yes, repeat, no.

3. You’ll hear a three-dimensional symphony of lung sounds that may well entertain you, if not actually augment your clinical diagnostic acuity. But I think it will do the latter too.

This tool is particularly useful in listening to the upper lobes of the lungs. It may help with carotid bruits—one end-piece over the carotid bifurcation, the other held opposite towards the back of the neck. Maybe, what with all the fancy electronic tools that can be wielded only by super-specialists, we hardly need such an old-fashioned gimmick. Regardless, I submit this fully portable ‘something’ for the generalist. The curious and conscientious family doctor, who still likes to do a half-decent physical before ordering an ultra-sound or a CT-scan, might want to try listening over different body regions. I’ve tried to hear and visualize the vascular goings-on inside my own head by placing one end over an eye socket with the other back at the occiput. But no luck. Nothing going on.

May I suggest that you build and try out the stereo-stethoscope—and perhaps report back? End of brief communication.