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  4. How to Choose a Stethoscope

How to Choose a Stethoscope

  • Chestpiece of a 3M Littmann Stethoscope with the Littmann seal on the diaphragm.

    Try before buying a stethoscope; hear, see, and feel the difference for yourself.

    When you’re shopping for a stethoscope, there’s no substitute for trying out different stethoscopes. Ask colleagues if you can listen through their stethoscopes. (Of course, clean the eartips before and after use.) Look at the features. See if the headsets are easy or hard to adjust. Chances are, a 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope will offer everything you’re looking for, and more.

    If you’re new to using a stethoscope, here’s an explanation of its components.

  • Illustration with a gray silhouette of a person wearing a cyan stethoscope.
    Hear the difference

    The ultimate test: How much can you hear? Slip on a Littmann stethoscope (make sure the eartips point toward your nose). Put the tunable diaphragm on your chest using light pressure. Hear your heartbeat? Notice how loud the sound is.

    How much louder? More than four times louder. An internal 3M test showed that heart sounds heard through the adult diaphragm of a Littmann stethoscope were more than four times louder (20 dB) than the same sounds heard through a different brand of stethoscope. That’s like the difference between whispering and talking. It could be the critical difference between hearing something significant in a patient, or not hearing it at all.

    After you’ve listened for yourself, listen to others. Read online reviews. Ask people who use Littmann stethoscopes. You’ll encounter story after story about people who depend on Littmann stethoscopes because they clearly hear the difference.

  • Illustration of a stethoscope with kinked tubing next to a stethoscope with straight tubing.
    See the difference

    Try this: Hold any stethoscope by its headset; let it hang vertically. Do you see distinct kinks or bends which can make the stethoscope hard to use? That indicates stiff tubing which can pull on eartips. Littmann stethoscope tubing hangs straight; it flexes easily as you examine a patient.

    As you hold the headset, note how the eartubes cross. Littmann stethoscope eartubes are symmetrical for ideal eartip seal and comfort.

    The headset should be adjustable for individual fit and comfort. The headset tension of all Littmann stethoscopes is easily adjusted by gently squeezing the eartubes together to increase tension, or pulling them apart to decrease tension.

  • Illustration comparing Littmann stethoscope rounded soft eartips to hard-edged eartips.
    Feel the difference

    Run your fingers over the Littmann stethoscope snap tight eartips. They’re smooth to seal comfortably inside your ears without irritation. Now try to pull one off the eartube. The eartips really do snap tight for maximum acoustic performance and safety. Finally, feel the weight. Littmann stethoscopes are designed to feel light and comfortable when draped around your neck or carried in a pocket.

    Learn more about the advantages of Littmann stethoscopes.