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The Littman Stethoscope

The stethoscope is one of the most important medical inventions of all time. Without it, doctors wouldn’t be able to listen to your heartbeat – at least not without placing their head on your chest. That method isn’t reliable or comfortable, so it’s a good thing the stethoscope was invented. However, stethoscopes weren’t always as reliable as they are now. The Littman Stethoscope is now the industry standard, but it wasn’t always that way. Keep reading to learn more about the evolution of the stethoscope and the importance of the Littman Stethoscope.


The Beginning of the Stethoscope


The first stethoscope was invented in 1816 by a French doctor named René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laennec. The early stethoscope was nothing like those of today. It was a simple tube made from wood, much like the old-fashioned hearing aids that looked like wooden cones. One end of the wooden stethoscope was placed against the chest while the other end was inserted into the ear. The early stethoscope didn’t amplify the sound that much, but it isolated it so it could be heard stronger than with the ear alone.


The monaural stethoscope was popular for a few years, but in 1851 an Irish doctor named Arthur Leared invented the binaural stethoscope. This model worked with both ears, and made hearing the heartbeat even easier. Various changes were made over the years, and stethoscopes continued to get better. In 1963, Dr. David Littman made a major breakthrough in stethoscope technology.


The Birth of the Littman Stethoscope


Dr. David Littman was a cardiologist and inventor. He wanted a better stethoscope than any on the market, so he invented what he wanted. Dr. Littman discovered a way to make stethoscope acoustics much better. The original Littman Stethoscope had two chest pieces. One piece looked similar to an open cylinder, and it was placed on the chest to hear low sounds. The other piece was round and flat, and it was placed on the chest to hear high sounds.


The Littman stethoscope made it possible for doctors to get better readings. Not only could they hear the sounds better, but they could also locate sounds faster. The Littman Stethoscope has evolved a lot since its invention in 1963. However, it remains the most popular type of stethoscope available.


There are various types of Littman Stethoscopes available. Dr. Littman’s company was purchased by 3M in 1967, but the doctor stayed and continued to improve upon his design. In addition to the standard model, there is also an electronic model that provides stronger amplification. The last major improvement to the Littman Stethoscope was the addition of the tunable feature. This allows doctors to hear high and low sounds with one chest piece. The doctor simply has to press lightly to use the chest piece in the bell shape, and press harder to press it into the flat round shape. This feature eliminated the need for two chest pieces.


Stethoscopes are the most widely used by healthcare professionals. They provide the best accuracy and amplification.