A Guide To Choosing The Stethoscope For You
Stethoscope 101: Understanding a Stethoscope and Its Parts

When you ask a layman to picture a medical professional, a few things will often spring to mind—a white coat, maybe a clipboard, and a stethoscope around their neck. The stethoscope is one of the most important and recognizable pieces of equipment for any healthcare professional. It’s one of the first pieces of medical equipment that we encounter in our lives. If you have a medical professional in the family, there’s a good chance you’ve asked if you could listen to what they hear on their end of a stethoscope. The fascination that a stethoscope can conjure up is endless. Its ingenious design continues to endure the test of time.


A stethoscope is a constant companion in the life of a healthcare professional. If you’re pursuing a career in the medical field, you’ll be spending a lot of time with it, so the choice of a stethoscope is not one to be made haphazardly. There are different kinds to meet different needs. There are now even customization options so your stethoscope can show a bit of your personality.

It’s an important investment, and a stethoscope purchase is an important milestone for any novice in the medical field. That’s why we’ve prepared this guide to help you scope out the stethoscope for you.


What’s In A Stethoscope?

The parts of a stethoscope work together to allow the user to hear the internal sounds of a patient’s body. These sounds are transferred from the stethoscope to the medical professional’s ears to enable proper diagnosis of a patient’s condition or illness.

To briefly describe how this happens, the head or chestpiece of the stethoscope is placed on the patient’s body—against the chest, stomach, or back—allowing the sounds from these areas to get picked up. The sounds move through the stethoscope tubing and into the eartubes, where the user can hear the patient’s heartbeat, as well as lung and abdominal sounds.

A stethoscope has a chestpiece, diaphragm and/or bell, stem, tubing, headset, eartubes, and eartips. Let’s take a closer look at what each part does.

Chestpiece

The chestpiece, also known as the head, is the part of the stethoscope responsible for conducting sound. This is the part placed against a patient’s skin. Through technological advancements, some stethoscopes can now also conduct sounds through clothing and bandages, and even blankets and animal fur.

A stethoscope can have a one-sided or two-sided chestpiece, depending on the model. Some stethoscopes with one-sided chestpieces only have diaphragms. Some have tunable or pressure-sensitive diaphragms that can act as both a bell and a diaphragm. Those with two-sided chestpieces, on the other hand, have a diaphragm on one side and a bell when flipped over or rotated. This rotation allows the user to choose which side is appropriate.

Chestpieces are usually made of metal, but there are now also acrylic head stethoscopes which are great for blocking out ambient noise. The chestpiece is made up of the diaphragm and/or bell, and the stem. We’ll look into those parts in more detail below.

Diaphragm

The diaphragm is the circular end of the chestpiece. On two-sided chestpieces, the diaphragm is the larger of the two ends. Its larger size allows the user to listen to a bigger area of the patient’s body. The diaphragm is designed to pick up sounds with higher frequencies compared to the bell. Diaphragms today are constructed to eliminate chill against the patient’s skin and to have better hypoallergenic properties, increasing comfort and safety for the patients examined.

Bell

The bell is another circular end of the chestpiece. On two-sided chestpieces, the bell is the smaller end. Due to its smaller diameter, it has a more restricted range that focuses on lower frequency sounds than the diaphragm. Similar to the diaphragm, today’s bells now come with features that provide better comfort for patients as they’re being examined. The smaller size of the bell makes it ideal for pediatric patients and skinnier patients. It is also used when dealing with bandaged areas or the carotid area.

Stem

The stem is the part that connects the chestpiece to the stethoscope tubing. It is usually made of metal or steel. On stethoscopes with two-sided chestpieces, it is also the part that allows the user to choose between the diaphragm and the bell. This is done by simply rotating the chestpiece and then clicking it into place with a ball bearing. Rotating the chestpiece determines whether the diaphragm or bell directs sound to the eartubes.

Tubing

The tubing is responsible for transferring and relaying the frequencies or sounds picked up by the chestpiece. It directs the sounds to the eartubes so that the user can hear them.

Stethoscopes often come with either a single tube or dual lumen tube design. With dual lumen tubing, the tubing is actually split in half on the inside, creating two sound channels inside one outer tube. This creates left and right paths so that the sounds can reach the user’s ears with the greatest accuracy. Stethoscope tubing these days is designed to withstand skin oils and alcohol, making them longer-lasting and able to endure constant use and cleaning.

Headset, Eartubes, And Eartips

The headset is that half of the stethoscope often seen hanging from a healthcare professional’s neck. The headset is composed of two eartubes, tension springs, and eartips.

The eartubes connect the stethoscope tubing to the eartips. They are made of metal or steel and are designed to be at the optimal angle for the best fit into the user’s ear canals. The eartubes isolate and direct the sounds into left and right paths to provide the user a clearer and more accurate listening experience. They have ribbed ends where the eartips are then placed.

The eartips are the parts that actually go into the ear. They are usually made of rubber or silicone and have a hole in the middle for letting out sound. Eartips are placed on the ends of the eartubes to provide an acoustic seal as well as to improve user safety. Eartips should provide a snug but comfortable fit for the user. They often come in different sizes to accommodate different ears.

Is One Kind Better Than Another?

There is no single best kind of stethoscope applicable to everyone. Your choice of stethoscope will depend on a variety of factors.

Evaluate your field or profession. A doctor and a nurse might work in the same hospital but use different kinds of stethoscopes because they have different needs. Medical and nursing students will get a lot of mileage out of the Single Stethoscope, which is versatile enough for most situations. Paramedics and veterinarians are often in loud environments that will require good ambient noise reduction out of their stethoscopes. Acrylic stethoscope heads are great for reducing ambient noise. The stethoscope is not only a diagnostic tool but also a teaching tool. Physicians that teach would definitely benefit from having a Teaching Stethoscope for auscultation lessons.

Determine what kinds of patients and situations you often deal with. If you handle patients of all ages and sizes, the Duo Stethoscope would be ideal so you have one adaptable tool that can always get the job done. The Duo Stethoscope is great for primary care physicians, professionals in family care and emergency care, and veterinarians. If you often treat large patients or large animals, an Extended Stethoscope would help you reach the necessary places while still giving your patients space.

How’s your hearing? If you have hearing issues, the Single Stethoscope or the Classic Stethoscope could be for you. If you find that the Single Stethoscope doesn’t perform well, the Classic Stethoscope is your best option for delivering great sound to your ears.


Conclusion

Advancements in science and medicine have given us a better understanding of the body now more than ever. We now have the best tools at our disposal for efficient and accurate diagnosis of patients’ conditions. The stethoscope seems so simple, but it is an indispensable part of every healthcare professional’s toolkit. It has endured as a symbol of medical practice and medical practitioners everywhere.

Getting the best stethoscope to suit your needs can help you become the best medical professional for your patients. The right stethoscope is what both you and your patients deserve. A stethoscope is an investment to last for years and years to come. With this guide, we hope that it will now be easier for you to make that choice.

Keep up with Ultrascope.