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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.