The Best Stethoscope for Doctors Reviewed
The Stethoscope is the most important diagnostic tool for doctors. It’s used in every patient encounter and is key to formulating the initial differential diagnosis and following investigations.
As a doctor, once you’ve chosen your stethoscope, you’ll use it thousands of times in your medical career to examine patients and form clinical decisions. So it’s important to choose the correct stethoscope for your needs, that will last you through your medical career.
Our team of doctors here have compiled a list of the best stethoscopes for doctors. We’ve reviewed and ranked our top 5, taking into account professional quality, durability, and value for money.
The 5 Best Doctor Stethoscopes of 2021
|Littmann® Cardiology IV Stethoscope||Check Price →|
|Littmann® Master Cardiology Stethoscope||Check Price →|
|Littmann® Master Classic II™ Stethoscope||Check Price →|
|ADC Adscope 601 Convertible Cardiology Stethoscope||Check Price →|
|Littmann® Classic III Stethoscope||Check Price →|
How do you Choose the Best Stethoscope for Doctors?
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 features you must prioritise.
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?
Benefits of Choosing the right Doctor’s Stethoscope
Proper auscultation involves listening carefully for distinct sounds that can be very hard to distinguish. If you are using a low-grade stethoscope, different sounds don’t maintain their quality during transmission, making meaningful auscultation very difficult.
A good-quality stethoscope doesn’t just transmit sounds loudly, but maintains the pitch and character of sounds, which results in an overall clearer auscultation to help you reach more accurate diagnoses.
Using a stethoscope that’s made from high-quality materials will provide you with extra comfort. A Stethoscope is something that is used often in the daily life of doctors and nurses, which is why investing in more comfort certainly pays off over time.
A proper examination requires a lot of auscultation:
You may need to auscultate the neck, arteries, lungs, abdomen, and other parts.
In some circumstances, the sounds produced by the parts of the body are not very distinct. Some of them are in a very low frequency.
This is where a good stethoscope benefits you, they make the process of auscultation a much easier and simpler process because they are made of high-quality parts that work better.
We’re going to go over what to look for in a good stethoscope for doctors, but…
What To Look For: 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. But which parts are important to know about when selecting a stethoscope?
Pay attention on the parts of the stethoscopes, make sure that they are made of high-quality parts so that it would be comfortable to use and produce better results.
The stethoscope bells come into their most useful during cardiac auscultation, where it is very effective in listening to low-frequency sounds and murmurs.
Bells and diaphragm are very essential if you need to distinguish distinct internal sounds in the body.
Other than stethoscope bells and diaphragm, do not forget to pay attention to the earpiece, and also the tubes.
Here are some tips on different parts to guide you.
Chest piece: The Bell & Diaphragm
A two sided headpiece will have a smaller raised side called the “bell” and a larger flatter surface called the “diaphragm”. These are designed so to pick up different frequencies. The wider flat diaphragm is optimally designed for higher frequency sounds such as breath sounds and heart sounds. The concave bell is designed for low frequency sounds such as Korotkoff sounds heard in measuring blood pressure, some heart mururs, and abdominal bowel sounds.
Many Littmann models now have a single-sided tunable diaphragm. These allow you to hear both high and low frequency sounds (i.e. the full range of frequencies) without having to turn the chest piece. Amplification of different frequencies is done by increasing or decreasing pressure on the chest piece during auscultation.
Whether you prefer the single or double sided chest piece is often a key deciding factor for healthcare professionals in choosing a stethoscope.
The material with which the chest pieces are finished play a role in the acoustics: titanium or stainless steel provide high quality sounds but increase weight.
Tube Length, Material, and Style
Nowadays tubes are very rarely made with latex but instead crafted of thick durable and stain-free materials (usually PVC). Tubing should be thick and robust to carry sounds without diminishing quality and allowing inteference.
When assessing the tubing, it should be firm and not be easily flattened between fingers, but retain its shape through manipulation.
Cheaper tubing is often thin and flimsy, and should be avoided at all costs.
Tube length is usually not given much consideration when choosing a stethoscope, but this can affect usability. Shorter tubes can give marginally better acoustics but also reduce manoeverability and require closer proximity. Welch Allyn tubes tend to be longer than Littmann, but still offer exceptional acoustic quality. Ultimately it comes down to user preference.
Ear Pieces and Binaurals (Headset)
Ear tips serve two key purposes: to transmit the final sound while blocking out ambient noise, and for comfortable wearing. Ear pieces can be hard, soft, or gel styled. The key to choosing the best ear tips are to find ones that fit snugly and effectively block out external ambient noise.
Ear tips of the cheaper stethoscope models tend to be made of hard plastic – these are neither effective at blocking noise nor comfortable for the wearer.
The best ear tips are of a medium-firm and rubbery consistency that mould to the shape of the ear canal opening, such as in Welch Allyn and Littmann stethoscopes.
Almost all good stethoscopes are designed to have changeable and replaceable ear pieces. Higher quality brands such as Welch Allyn and Littmann will come with replacement eartips or even eartips of different sizes to fit users wearing preferences and comfort.
Heavier and bigger stethoscopes tend to produce better and more distinguishable sounds than lighter and smaller stethoscopes. Although in some circumstances, lighter and smaller stethoscopes might be more suitable than bigger and heavier one.
The superior perforance of the added weight of these materials (often titanium or stainless steel) are generally considered well-worth the extra weight, for the vast improvement in acoustics. Stainless steel also has the added benefit of being extremely hard-wearing.
There are several lightweight stethoscope models where the chest piece is made oflighter materials. These are of sufficient quality for basic every-day assessments, that are a great alternative for those who value versatility and practicality over sound performance, but not ideal as a doctor stethoscope.
Stethoscope prices range greatly from budget models to specialist quality stethoscopes at hundreds of dollars. When it comes to stethoscopes, the adage “You get what you pay for” is more true than ever. The increased cost of higher-end stethoscopes are due to the greater value of the materials used in construction.
As a general guide:
- Budget stethoscopes in the under $50 range are suitable for students new to auscultation and those in training. These are good for learning, but will need to be upgraded for professional use.
- Professional stethoscopes at $50 – $130 are mid-tier and suitable for the everyday use of most health professionals. These tend to offer good quality and durability at an affordable price.
- Expert stethoscopes $130+ offer the highest range acoustics, quality, and durability. For experienced users and those that value durability beyond generations. With the highest quality stethoscope professionals can be certain that sounds are never missed due to equipment quality. These will be cardiology stethoscopes, such as the Littmann Cardiology IV.
Types of Stethoscopes: Different Healthcare Functions
It is important to choose the type of stethoscopes that matches the circumstances.
How to Choose the best stethoscope for your needs: Important Considerations
Budget vs. Quality
Budget is one of the most important things to consider because even if you can find the stethoscope you think is the best, it may not be right due to it’s cost. If you’re looking for a high-end cardiology stethoscope, head here. If you’re a medical student and want something that will last you several years, but with the view to upgrade one day, check out our top 5 here.
Quality and dependability is something people always consider. It is especially important to have tools that are highly qualified so that they will produce dependable results.
Medical School Requirements
It is possible that your medical school may issue specific guidelines on which stethoscopes should be purchased by their medical students. While this is now rare, in this case it is important that you comply, especially during formal clinical examinations. The reason for these medical school requirements are usually to prevent students gaining an unfair advantage with the help of high-performance electronic and digital stethoscopes, while enusuring that all students have a stethoscope of a minimum quality sufficient for examinations.
Many schools that issue such guidelines also offer financial assistance to students unable to afford a stethoscope.
The last but not least; durability.
Durability is one of the things you would want to consider carefully because the price of a stethoscope is certainly not cheap. And if you want to buy a high-quality cardiology stethoscope, it can get really pricey.
That is why you have to consider the durability of the stethoscope: can it withstand pressure or damages, and how long will it be able to function effectively and accurately. Brands such as Littmann are particularly respected when it comes to durability, and therefore the classic Littmann stethoscopes often dominate the top charts.
Each of the features listed above is important. It can be overwhelming, which is why we’ve compiled a helpful top 5 chart of the best stethoscopes.
You can rest assured that our ranking takes into consideration all durability factors, and the above should last you your entire medical career.
Choosing a stethoscope is not as simple as choosing the cheapest or most expensive one.
Littmann stethoscopes are well regarded in the medical profession. In particular, Littmann Classic II and Littmann Classic III stethoscope are always popular amongst doctors. (The classic III stethoscope being the new and improved version of the classic II) The classic range have withstood the test of time, and sometimes last entire careers.
It depends on what you need to do with it, even though the quality of the stethoscope is important and most of the time high-quality products come with high-price.
Other than made of high-quality parts, it is the durability and the dependability is important too.
The tools in the medical world need to have a high dependability because people’s health and life are at stake.
Use this comparison tool to help you determine which of the top rated stethoscopes for doctors is best for you. It’ll give you a list of relevant features so that you can compare them.
Click on the review button to see detailed individual stethoscope reviews too.