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BBC Radio 4 - 92 to 94 FM and 198 Long WaveListen to Digital Radio, Digital TV and OnlineListen on Digital Radio, Digital TV and Online

Science
GUESSING TUBES
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The story of the doctor's best friend: The Stethoscope
Tuesday 8 October 2002, 9.00-9.30pm

Dr Graham Easton presents the story of the stethoscope - medical icon, lifesaver, engineering challenge and doctor's best friend. Invented by a frenchman named Lannaec in the early 19th century, the original design has barely altered. But digital technology is set to change all that...

Stethoscope
The doctor's stethoscope is probably the best known and most visible badge of office a physician can carry. Listening through it, however, is also one of the most difficult skills any medical student has to master. More art than science, the use of the stethoscope requires intense concentration and a deep understanding of the noises the body can make. So tricky is stethoscope diagnosis, that most doctors hang on to the same stethoscope throughout their careers, terrified that if they change they will no longer be able to recognise the sounds it picks up.
Dr Graham Easton
In Guessing Tubes Graham Easton, himself a trained clinician, talks to doctors about the mysterious relationships they have with their stethoscopes. How did they get to learn the complexities of diagnosis under the stern eye of unforgiving consultants? What do the sounds they hear actually mean? And do they ever use the instrument just to convince patients that they have been "properly" examined, even when it is not really necessary?

Graham also looks to at a new digital stethoscope that can record, simplify and highlight sounds as never before. Will the new high-tech device spell the end of the old fashioned hearing tube?

Plus from plumbing to car maintenance; the not-so-medical uses to which this versatile instrument can be put.

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