We compile and tests the best stethoscopes for every role. Reviewed by health professionals for health professionals. Our free guides and reviews are here to help you:
- Learn how to choose the right stethoscope and avoid the bad ones.
- Browse our top rated stethoscope charts for different professional groups.
- Explore our free resources and stethoscope guides.
- Find out which stethoscope is best for you:
Best Stethoscopes of 2017: Reviewed
Read Our Review
Read Our Review
Read Our Review
How do you Choose the Best Stethoscope?
Too commonly you see health professionals with the wrong stethoscope for their role and needs, but with so many options it can be easy to make that wrong choice, then be forced to stick with it, or pay dearly for the necessary upgrade. Before you buy, learn which criteria and preferences you must prioritise.
If you’re short on time and already know what you’re looking for, please check out our top five contenders above. Otherwise browse our menu and stethoscopes to read detailed individual reviews.
Most health professionals buy one stethoscope to last them their entire career, therefore, much rides on making the right choice from the beginning. Do you need a quality stethoscope that distinctly captures all relevant sound frequencies necessary for high-level Cardiac, Respiratory, and Abdominal auscultations? Or do you just need one that’s good enough to identify the presence or absence of breath and bowel sounds?
What can you use a Stethoscope to Hear?
Auscultation of Heart Sounds:
Human and animal hearts make two loud sounds when they beat:
First the “lub” sound created by the closure of the mitral and tricuspid valves between the atria and ventricles of the heart. Then as the blood rushes out of the heart into the body through the great vessels (aorta and pulmonary arteries) the aortic and pulmonary valves close and make the second “dub” sound.
When this perfect opening and closing of the valves is not occurring as normal – for instance if one valve is unable to close completely – then extra sounds and unusual noises can occur. These are heart murmurs, and the characteristic of each murmur gives us clues to where the pathology in the heart is.
To Measure Blood Pressure:
Despite the growing number of automatic blood pressure machines, measuring blood pressure by auscultation with a stethoscope and sphygmanometer is still considered the gold standard by the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH.
This is done by wrapping a pressure cuff around a seated patient’s upper arm, ending just above the antecubital fossa. With the stethoscope placed over the brachial artery in the antecubital fossa, the cuff is inflated to 180mm Hg. As the air is released from the cuff slowly, listening with the stethoscope and observing the sphygmanometer dial will allow one to hear the first Korotkoff sound signifying the patient’s systolic pressure. This sound disappears again at the patient’s diastric pressure. Recording both these numbers will give you the blood pressure, eg. 120/80.
The Korotkoff sound heard is created when the pressure around the cuff is equal to the systolic (higher) pressure of the patient, allowing blood to rush through the cuff and create a sound. These are not the same sounds heard during cardiac auscultation that create the “lub” “dub” sound.
Similar to auscultation of heart sounds, physiological sounds made during breathing are transmitted through the stethoscope so that the user may hear normal (vesicular) breath sounds.
When the breath sounds are decreased or absent, this is abnormal and suggests reduced air flow to that lung area. This could be due to air or fluid replacing lung tissue in that chest area, or increased thickness of the chest wall, or another pathology such as emphysema.
In a respiratory assessment, the varying quality of a stethoscope can either be used to crudely hear the mere presence of breath sounds or, with better stethoscopes, to determine its character. A good stethoscope will allow you to clearly discern normal vesicular breath sounds from bronchial breathing. The best stethoscopes make it easy to hear added sounds: for instance the difference between coarse and fine crackles (or rales). Between wheeze and stridor. To accurately assess the volume of breath sounds to pinpoint small consolidations or effusions.
We’ve created a detailed guide to lung auscultation and the respiratory examination for medical professionals here.
Auscultation in Surgery
Some think stethoscopes are only used by physicians and surgeons have few uses for them. But this is far from the case:
In an abdominal auscultation a stethoscope can be used to hear bowel sounds to rule out obstruction and paralytic ileus after surgery. There are increased bowel sounds in the initial phase of bowel obstruction, which then become “tinkling” or entirely absent in late stage obstruction.
In abdominal aortic aneurysms, auscultation may pick up a bruit (soft blowing sound) of the blood rushing through the abnormal vessel. Similarly ENT or Head & Neck surgens may use a stethoscope to listen to the carotids neck vessels for a carotid bruit, or for a thyroid bruit.
Some orthopaedic surgeons even use stethoscopes over joints to listen to subtle clicks and sounds as the joing is manipulated.
The Best Stethoscopes of 2017: The Hot List Reviewed
- Littmann® Cardiology IV Stethoscope
- Littmann® Master Cardiology Stethoscope
- Littmann® Master Classic II Stethoscope
- ADC Adscope 601 Convertible Cardiology Stethoscope
- Littmann® Classic III Stethoscope
The medical profession depends on stethoscopes, and clinical diagnosis has evolved around their use. Learning how to use your stethoscope can be a challenge, but this guide will help you get started.
Auscultation with a stethoscope is a vital skill to learn for all health professionals with patient contact. This includes doctors, nurses, EMTs, vets, physician assistants, medical students, and nursing students. It can be incredibly difficult to get good at auscultation by trying to learn with a bad stethoscope. This is a mistake many medical students make: you can only get good at discerning different cardiac and respiration sounds if your stethoscope is of sufficient quality to carry these sound characters in the first place. Give yourself an advantage from day 1 by choosing the best stethoscope for your professional needs.
The first step in determining the best one is to determine what type of stethoscope you need.
A cardiologist needs a cardiac stethoscope.
A pediatrician needs a pediatric stethoscope.
Types of Stethoscopes
You might be wondering, what are the types of stethoscopes?
These are designed with a very small head, obviously for the small patient they are used on. Trying to use an adult stethoscope will not work very well, if at all.
The large adult head will pick up ambient noise and distort what you are actually trying to listen to.
An infant stethoscope will have a very small chestpiece that’ll decrease if not eliminate those ambient noises and produce a very high quality sound.
Similar to the pediatric, it made with a smaller chestpiece, or head, than an adult. It’s not quite as small as a pediatric because the patient is larger in size.
This increase in size requires a diaphragm sized accordingly. A pediatric stethoscope will ensure a nice quality sounds being heard.
Need to amplify the sounds? This is an excellent type to have then.
An electronic stethoscope will amplify the sound and can even be filtered. No more ambient noise interfering.
Hear with sound. These are great for pregnant patients.
This technology is so useful that expecting parents can buy a doppler stethoscope to hear their babies heartbeat.
A doppler stethoscope is a fabulous tool to have for those special patients or unique circumstances.
Hearing a fetus heartbeat can be done using a fetal stethoscope.
Both expecting parents and healthcare professionals use these specially designed stethoscopes.
An example of a fetal stethoscope is the Pincard stethoscope is a simple design and is still used today.
This one gets with the technological times. These can do some really amazing things.
Want to save the patients lung sounds before a procedure to compare afterwards? Not a problem. A digital stethoscope can do it.
What used to be a very simple diagnostic tool has revolutionized into a truly powerful diagnostic tool.
It’s truly amazing to see such a tiny baby. Treating and caring for them takes some special people.
Having the right equipment is crucial to the outcome of these patients. Trying to auscultate lung sounds is difficult and having a neonatal stethoscope will be very helpful.
Listening to heart murmurs takes a tremendous amount of training and experience.
You’ll need one that performs like none other.
Listening to a horse can be different. You’ll need a veterinary stethoscope with a long tube.
At the same time, if you treat a lot of small animals such as birds, that same stethoscope for a horse will be a challenge to work with.
Just as you need a specific one for pediatrics as compared to an adult person, the same goes for vets.
Those loud sirens that EMTs and Paramedics use can have a negative impact on your hearing.
And those that have medical conditions want to enter the medical field can use specifically configured stethoscope for the hearing impaired.
Having a hearing disability doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the job you love so much.
You want one that is lightweight and yet provides excellent sound qualities. That extra weight can weigh you down. Yup, we just said that.
As having a neck injury or neck pain after wearing a stethoscope around your neck all day, the lighter the better.
Go home without having to put a heating pad on with a good lightweight stethoscope.
These are great tools for those that need a little boost in sound amplification.
Designed with some hearing issues in consideration, these are a great option.
You’ll have a bountiful selection to choose from, find out right now by clinking this link.
An amplified stethoscope is worthy of serious consideration for those that need a a higher level sound.
So that is a basic list of the types of stethoscopes.
You should be able to select one from this group.
But which one out of the types is the best?
Good question, we need to move on to the next part.
The Parts of a Stethoscope
Acoustic quality, durability, bell type, shape, color, bulk, and weight, are just a few of the many things to take into consideration when purchasing a stethoscope.
Not all stethoscopes are built the same.
Nor will they last the same.
You will need to look at the parts of the stethoscope.
Then compare them to other models.
Some will have craftsmanship that is superb while others you want to stay away from like the plague.
You might be wondering, what parts should I look at?
Bell / Diaphragm
The chestpiece can be designed with or without a two sided diaphragm.
A two sided diaphragm will most likely have a smaller sized diaphragm designed for smaller patients such as pediatrics.
Others will have a diaphragm on one side and a bell on the other side of the chestpiece. A bell is able to hear different sound frequencies than a diaphragm.
Depending on the types of assessments you may perform, you may or may not need a specific chestpiece.
All stethoscope tubes are not created equal.
Some are double lined which helps reduce friction noise generation.
Others are made from different materials. This will affect the durability and lifespan.
Ear pieces can be hard, soft, or gel styled. Each has pro’s and con’s.
Almost all stethoscopes are designed to have changeable ear pieces. Higher quality brands will come with different styles so that you can change them based on your personal preferences.
A heavy stethoscope chestpiece normally equates to a higher quality sound.
This heavier weight can be a detriment though. Wearing it around your neck can cause neck pain in a short time.
You can find a good stethoscope for a good price. If you can afford a higher quality, then feel free.
However, don’t spend beyond your means just because it’s highly rated.
This is especially true if you’re just starting out and can’t afford an excellent one. You can always upgrade latter.
If you want more detailed information on the parts of a stethoscope, go to this page.
Now that you got that down, what’s next?
You could read a post we just did on the best otoscopes.
As a nurse, you want the best. One that meets your patients needs while still meeting your expectations.
These best stethoscope for nurses provide variety while ensuring quality. You can narrow down your search by checking out this post.
EMTs and Paramedics have special needs. Working in adverse conditions, they need the best.
These will hold up to the harsh environments and yet assist you in providing life saving care. Click here for the best stethoscope for EMT.
Nursing students often are overwhelmed on which one to get. There so much going on as a nursing student.
Selecting one that meets your needs while not breaking the bank is essential. Click here for the best stethoscope for nursing students.
Doctors need the best. We want them to have the best.
There are a lot of good stethoscopes, but few will met the rigid requirements that’s needed. Check out the best stethoscope for doctors by clicking this link.
Medical students are challenged just like nursing students. All of those assignments, patient rounds, classes, ect.
The best stethoscope for medical students will help solidify their foundation in the medical practice.
Learn about the best stethoscope for medical students by clicking this link.
Best Stethoscope for Respiratory Therapists
R.T.s need to hear lung sounds almost like no others. Maybe a pulmonologist.
Breathing treatments, correctly selecting vent settings, and confirming tube placement are just a few of the critical tasks they must perform.
The best stethoscope for respiratory therapists is often overlooked by medical professionals, but just ask any RT and see what they think.
Stethoscope Reviews & Guides
Here’s our report on the various reviews, simply click here to see some detailed stethoscope reviews.
We’ve created unbiased stethoscope guides for all the best stethoscopes on the market, you can check them out by browsing our menu for the individual stethoscope of interest.
What is the best stethoscope brand?
In our opinion, for the cost, warranty, reputation, recommendation, and our own personal use, we say the best is……
You won’t go wrong with a Welch-Allyn stethoscope, an Ultrascope, or even a MDF stethoscope.
We won’t list manufacturers that we would never buy from on the website, we just don’t feel it’s the right thing to do.
We’ve made a great resource into our recommended stethoscope brands, just click here to see what the bottom line is for each of them.
Best Stethoscope Type
We’ve been asked to put together a list of the best stethoscopes based on the type.
That is, to list the best for the specific type of use.
Here’s what we working on as you read this….
Best Infant Stethoscope
Best Fetal Stethoscope
Best Neonatal Stethoscope
Best Hearing Impaired Stethoscope
Best Digital Stethoscope
Best Doppler Stethoscope
Best Veterinary Stethoscope