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Monday, June 15, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now?

A stetheocope is a very important piece of diagnostic equipment that every physician and veterinarian uses. High quality ones can cost $200-300, so this is not simply a rubber tube, ear plugs, and a head. With a good stethoscope you can hear very subtle changes in the heart and lungs, aiding in the diagnosis of cardiac and pulmonary disorders. Very small differences and alterations can be difficult to hear with a lot of ambient noise, so we try to listen in quiet areas. To aid in hearing these faint sounds, the ear buds fit very snugly in the ear canals, keeping sounds from overwhelming what you are trying to hear.

Why am I describing this? Because I want you to understand that when we put the stethoscope in our ears, we are deliberately trying to filter out and elminate all sounds except those coming through the bell on the head. In fact, if we are using a high-quality stethoscope, it's difficult for us to hear anything except what's coming through the instrument. And why is this important to know? Because I constantly have clients try to carry on a conversation while I'm using it.

Yep, it happens every day. I will talk to a client, then pause to listen to their pet's chest. While I'm listening, I can see their lips move or hear a little bit of their voice. And what little I hear I try to ignore so I can listen for any abnormalities in the heart or lungs. I think that most of the time they don't realize that I can't hear them. I try to be polite, but sometimes it's hard to say "I'm sorry, I couldn't hear a word you were saying." Even after 12 years of practice, I still find this a hard thing to say.

So the next time you go to your doctor or vet, pause while they're using their stethoscope. They really can't hear you, even if they want to. Wait until they're done and then continue the conversation.


  1. Yeah, I don't get why people think they should keep talking. 1-I have something in my ears 2-I'm trying to check your pet's heart, don't you think that's important? People are weird.

  2. I was an emt and for part of my training had to do blood pressure and mini exams for campers, in a noisy gym filled with 100s of people and I can't hear well anyway. I will be more careful not to speak when my vet or doctor is trying to listen. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Useful info, but it doesn't explain why some vets ask a question just before they put them on. Or, they stick them in halfway through my description of what's happening to my beloved pet. Perhaps I should take the hint?

  4. I guess as vets, we should learn to say something about it before we block out the client's voice :)


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