What is a Stethoscope?

A stethoscope is a type of medical diagnostic equipment used to listen to the internal sounds of an anatomical body. It is primarily used to listen to the heart or the lungs of the patient, while it can also be used to listen to the intestines and circulation within the veins and arteries. When used in conjunction with a sphygmometer, a stethoscope is vital in measuring blood pressure.

How to Choose the Right Stethoscope

The scary possibility of misdiagnosis doctors and healthcare professionals know all too well. That is why it is important to understand the different diagnostic instruments on the market. A stethoscope is one of the most important tools used when diagnosing a condition. Choosing an appropriate stethoscope requires knowing the difference between different stethoscope brands and models. If you are a student going into the medical field, you have probably already realized there are many types of stethoscopes and the broad range in price. Acoustic quality distinguishes one stethoscope from another.

A stethoscope's acoustic quality is determined by how well it communicates sound to the listener. The first component that determines how well the instrument does this is the earpieces. Properly fitted earpieces optimize sound quality. The second determining component is the tubing and tube length. Generally, dual tube design is known to perform better than single lumen design. Optimal sound is generally said to be reached with a tube about 18"-20" in length. Longer tubing does not carry sound as well as shorter tubing. The third determining component is the chest piece. The weight and width of the chest piece determines sound intensity. Components such as the bell and diaphragm are used to listen to low frequencies and high frequencies. These different components distinguish the different stethoscopes and the different uses they are intended for.

Choosing the appropriate stethoscope depends on what the stethoscope is going to be used for. Cheaper stethoscopes are sufficient for very basic examinations. These stethoscopes are usually priced under $100. Littmann is the most commonly used stethoscope brand among doctors and nurses because of its acoustic sensibility. These are generally priced from $100-$200. Select medical specialists need electronic stethoscopes. Electronic stethoscopes utilize sound enhancing software to analyze sound otherwise almost undetectable with standard Littmann stethoscope.

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