Best Stethoscope 2017

Whether you’re a medical student, a registered nurse, or a physician, you need a high-performance dependable stethoscope.With so many brands and levels of stethoscopes to choose from selecting the right stethoscope for your needs can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact choosing a quality stethoscope can be fairly easy once you know what to look for.

A good stethoscope is designed to be lightweight and comfortable when worn over the neck or in the ears and is designed to provide quality sound isolation and performance when listening to a patients heartbeat, lungs and blood-flow.

Compare: The 10 Top Rated Stethoscopes

RankPictureNameBrandPriceRating
13M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope3M Littmann$$$4.9
23M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope3M Littmann$$$4.9
33M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope3M Littmann$$4.8
4American Diagnostic Corporation Platinum Edition Adscope 615ADC$4.7
5RA Bock Single Head Cardiology StethoscopeRA Bock$4.6
63M Littmann Cardiology S.T.C. (Soft-Touch Chestpiece) Stethoscope3M Littmann$$$4.5
73M Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope3M Littmann$$$4.5
8American Diagnostic Corporation 600ST Cardiology AdscopeADC$$4.4
9UltraScope Zebra Print StethoscopeUltraScope$$4.2
10Welch Allyn Tycos Professional Adult Double-head StethoscopeWelch Allyn$$4.1

Our Stethoscope Reviews

Best Cheap Stethoscope – 3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope

The Littmann Classic II is the perfect choice for the E.R. doctors for several reasons. The first is its ergonomic design and light weight that allows the doctors to carry it wherever they go. The second important factor is the fact that it is made from latex free materials so you do not have to be afraid that you will come upon that one patient with an allergy.

Pros:

  • Award winning ergonomic design and excellent acoustic sensitivity deliver comfort and reliable diagnostic performance
  • Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds
  • Anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal
  • Non-chill rim and diaphragm offers welcome patient comfort
  • Latex free materials for allergy sensitive users

Cons:

  • Not recommended for Cardiology fellows. Its good but not the best one in the town

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Best Stethoscope for the Money – 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope

The Littmann Cardiology III is the better choice for general practitioners that handle both children and adults on a regular basis. It is the only dual sided stethoscope in the Cardiology series and both sides can be tuned to focus on either low or high frequency sounds. It still comes with the two in one tube design that the Master Cardiology Stethoscope uses so the sound quality is absolutely impeccable. Furthermore, the ear buds are inclined at an angle to perfectly merge with the ear canal.

Pros:

  • The only dual-sided chestpiece in the Cardiology line provides versatile auscultation for both adult and pediatric patients
  • Two tunable diaphragms respond with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds
  • Expand versatility by converting pediatric side to open bell for low frequencies, using the nonchill bell sleeve
  • Two-in-one tube design (dual lumen) eliminates noise interference from two external tubes rubbing together
  • Anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal

Cons:

  • There have been some issues where the sound quality of the Littmann III Cardiology stethoscope is not as highly defined as other Littmann stethoscopes

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Best Stethoscope Overall – 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope

We are going to talk a lot about the Littmann stethoscopes simply because they currently make some of the best stethoscopes for doctors. Their top of the range stethoscope is the Master Cardiology Stethoscope. It is a single sided stethoscope, using a tunable diaphragm to focus on either low or high frequency sounds. And for uses with smaller patients and children there is a non chill bell sleeve included with the stethoscope. Finally, the Master Cardiology Stethoscope uses a two in one tube design to eliminate the noise of two tubes rubbing together so common in other stethoscopes.

Pros:

  • Chestpiece delivers Littmann’s highest acoustic performance along with handcrafted, eye-catching design
  • Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds
  • Two-in-one tube design (dual lumen) eliminates noise interference from two external tubes rubbing together
  • Special-Procedures Adaptor for infant or pediatric auscultation adds versatility to the instrument
  • Anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal

Cons:

  • This is not a good one for pediatrics. It amplifies murmurs but muffles breath sounds. Makes clear baby lungs sound raspy.

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Our Top Rated Stethoscopes

 

Best Overall

Best For The Money 

Best Cheap 

What Is A Stethoscope?

A stethoscope is used to detect and study heart, lung, stomach, and other sounds in adult humans, human fetuses, and animals. Using a stethoscope, the listener can hear normal and abnormal respiratory, cardiac, pleural, arterial, venous, uterine, fetal and intestinal sounds.

The stethoscope is an acoustic medical device for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of an animal or human body. It typically has a small disc-shaped resonator that is placed against the chest, and two tubes connected to earpieces. It is often used to listen to lung and heart sounds. It is also used to listen to intestines and blood flow in arteries and veins. In combination with a sphygmomanometer, it is commonly used for measurements of blood pressure. Less commonly, “mechanic’s stethoscopes” are used to listen to internal sounds made by machines, such as diagnosing a malfunctioning automobile engine by listening to the sounds of its internal parts. Stethoscopes can also be used to check scientific vacuum chambers for leaks, and for various other small-scale acoustic monitoring tasks. A stethoscope that intensifies auscultatory sounds is called phonendoscope.

The stethoscope was invented in France in 1816 by René Laennec at the Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris. It consisted of a wooden tube and was monaural. Laennec invented the stethoscope because he was uncomfortable placing his ear on women’s chests to hear heart sounds. His device was similar to the common ear trumpet, a historical form of hearing aid; indeed, his invention was almost indistinguishable in structure and function from the trumpet, which was commonly called a “microphone”. Laennec called his device the “stethoscope”, and he called its use “mediate auscultation”, because it was auscultation with a tool intermediate between the patient’s body and the physician’s ear. (Today the word auscultation denotes all such listening, mediate or not.)

What Are The Advantages Of Using A Stethoscope?

It’s practically the symbol of physicians and physician assistants.  Most of us know the basics: you put the things in your ears, the other end on a sick person, and listen. But stethoscopes can do much more. The following are a few facts about the tool, followed by a more complete list of its uses.  If you’re new to the medical field, getting comfortable with your stethoscope will make you a better student and clinician of medicine. What you can do with it? If you learn the following, you’ll be using yours more than 90% of clinicians.

  • Measuring blood pressure. Probably the most common use, but often done poorly. Placement of the blood pressure cuff is critical. Also, many students are taught that the diastolic BP (e.g. 120/80) is the point in which they can no longer hear the thump of the brachial artery. More accurately, diastolic BP is the number at which the volume of the thump drops dramatically. This is often 4-10 mm Hg higher than when the sound disappears completely.
  • Assessing lung sounds: allows you to identify the rate, rhythm and quality of breathing, any obstructions of the airways, as well as rubs that indicate inflammation of the pleura. Don’t forget to start above the clavicle, since lung tissue extends that high. Also, when you listen to the back, have the patient lean forward slightly to expose the triangle of auscultation. Remember that for lung sounds (according to the Bates “Bible,”) we listen in six paired areas on the chest, and seven paired areas on the back. I remember this with the mnemonic “6AM – 7PM,” (6 anterior pairs, and 7 posterior pairs). Always listen to left and right sides at the same level before moving down to the next level – this way you get a side-by-side comparison, and any differences will be more apparent.
  • Assessing heart sounds. We listen for rate, type, and rhythm of heart sound, as well as any sounds that shouldn’t be there (adventitious sounds), such as gallops, murmurs or clicks. All hearts sound the same at first. But after listening to many hearts, eventually sounds will seem to jump out at you. For heart sounds, we listen to the four primary areas: left and right of the sternum at the level of the 2nd rib, left of the sternum at the 4th rib, and on the left nipple line at the level of the 5th rib. Remember these with the mnemonic “2-2-4-5.” The names of the valves that you are hearing in these locations are: (2 right) aortic, (2 left) pulmonic, (4) tricuspid, (5) mitral. Remember these with the mnemonic “All Patients Take Meds.” Some of my friends use the mnemonic Apartment M2245 (APT M2245).
  • Assessing Bowel Sounds. This is easy to do, and important if there may be a bowel obstruction or paralytic ileus. The gurgling, bubbling noises are called borborygmi. Go figure.
  • Detecting bruits. A bruit (pronounced “broo’-ee,”) is an abnormal whooshing sound of blood through an artery that usually indicates that the artery has been narrowed, causing a turbulent flow, as in arterioscleroisis. Bruits are abnormal – if the patient is healthy and “normal,” you should not hear any bruits. Bruits can be detected in the neck (carotid bruits), umbilicus (abdominal aortic bruits), kidneys (renal bruits), femoral, iliac, and temporal arteries. The first true bruit I ever heard was umbilical, just above a patient’s belly button, and when I heard it I knew immediately that the patient had an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). It was an exciting find for me, and it might have saved my patient’s life.
  • Measuring the span of the liver. Usually this is done with percussion (tapping the belly), but another neat way is to place the stethoscope below the right nipple, the other index finger just above the belt line in line with the nipple, and gently scratch the skin up toward the chest piece of the stethoscope. When you are over the liver, the sound will become more dull. Marking the location where the dullness begins and ends provides a decent measurement of the liver size in that location. About 10 cm is normal at the nipple line.
  • Hearing Aid. Finally, the stethoscope makes a nice hearing aid with hearing impaired patients. Put the eartips in the patient’s ears, and talk into the chest piece. Handy in the ER!
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What Are The Different Types of Stethoscopes?

To any average person, medical instruments all look the same. But for medical professional, instruments like the stethoscope come in different types. Models like the Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope and the Littmann Classic II SE, are very popular in the market today. This is because these specific makes have excellent features and characteristics. Medical practitioners who use the right kind of stethoscope for their jobs have an easier time at work. Yes, there are different types of stethoscopes and these are as follows:

  • Acoustic – these are the most popular kinds in the market today. In fact, this is the original stethoscope model. Sound is transferred from the diaphragm through a series of hollow tubes that travel up the earpieces. The air inside the hollow tubes serves as the medium of transmission. There are two sides to the chest piece of an acoustic model. The diaphragm is in charge of delivering high frequency sounds. The bell on the other hand is in charge of detecting low frequency sounds. This is why you regularly see medical professionals who try to interchange between a bell and a diaphragm when diagnosing a patient.
  • Electronic – also known as a stethophone, this type uses electronic transducers to convert the sounds of the body to electronic signals which can then be amplified. This is a very expensive version of a stethoscope. It is not primarily used by doctors because it is very inconvenient to use. Stethophones are uses for special applications like remote diagnosis and monitoring. Stethophones can be given a wireless connection so that doctors can monitor the vital signs of a patient from a distance.
  • Recording – this is a special electronic variety that can be connected to a recording device. Some doctors use this in order to consult a variety of medical cases with other doctors. If they come across a patient that exhibits bodily sounds that they are not familiar with, they can record the sounds and have other doctors listen to it. Consultations can be conducted fast and efficiently thanks to recording stethoscopes.
  • Fetal – this type is also called a fetoscope. Generally speaking, it looks like a trumpet and doctors place this on the bellies of pregnant mothers in order to listen to the baby inside the mother’s womb. This specific type was invented by the French Obstetrician, Adolphe Pinard. Of course, there’s a modern version of the fetoscope where the basic model is intertwined with some features of a stethphone.


Considerations for Choosing the Best Stethoscope

Selecting the right stethoscope for you should go beyond brand names, price, and hearsay. To find the best stethoscope for you, it would be wise to consider all of the components that make up a stethoscope.

Headset

Optimally, the headset should be the same high-density material as the chestpiece and angled at 15° as a standard. Just as you would want the highest sealing and amplifying acoustics on your chestpiece, you want the same quality metals to transmit sounds to your headset. Be cautious on which materials are used for both headset and chestpiece, as the description of your stethoscope may only include the material of the chestpiece.

Chestpiece

Look for a complete construction in high-density materials, such as stainless steel or titanium for its performance and durability properties. Additionally, a chestpiece that not only has a hand-polished finish on the outside, but also inside is ideal. A chestpiece that is unfinished internally has perforations and can absorb sound (much like a ceiling would). A hand-polished and smooth chestpiece offers a much clearer and crisper sound.

Diaphragm

Look for a high-quality and durable diaphragm. It would be advantageous to have extra in case of a puncture or other mishaps.

Tubing

You should select a stethoscope that has thick and durable tubing to isolate acoustics from external noise and insulate the sound – thin or tubing prone to breakage can lead to loss of sound. Some tubing will be longer than others to maintain a safer distance from patient to physician.

Eartips

Eartips may seem like an afterthought when selecting a stethoscope, but they are actually quite crucial in providing accurate readings. Eartips should fit securely and comfortably inside the ear, and preferably offered in various sizes for comfort. Not only should eartips be comfortable, it should create a seal inside your ear to prevent external sound from seeping through. For eartips, size and materials matter.

Stem

Even the stem on a stethoscope makes a difference! For the most premium sound experience, you would want a stem that is constructed in the same quality metal as your chestpiece. Don’t overlook this small detail, a great stem is precisely designed and needs to “snap” into place to reduce sound leakage.

Conclusion

A stethoscope is a major investment in your career, so it is important to get one that meets all of your needs. While they all many appear alike to people outside the field, there are always small but significant differences that make one the best stethoscope for you. You can’t put a price on good health, which is why it is best to invest in a reliable stethoscope like the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope. This device offers so much more than other models, the additional cost is worth every penny. One of the most important things for cardiologists is the level of detail they can get from the patient’s heart beat and chest sounds. Even general practitioners need to be able to hear accurately their patients’ heart beat and breathing flux. For that reason the stethoscope remains one of the oldest, simplest, and yet most reliable tools at a doctor’s side.

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