The Best Way to Use a Stethoscope

The stethoscope is the unique symbol of every medical professional. Most of us are aware of how to use a stethoscope and its basics to keep one end in ears and the other end over the body of the sick person and listen. But do you know that your stethoscope can do much more than this!

This post will tell you about the working process, the functionalities of the stethoscope and also the best way to use a stethoscope. If you are new to the medical profession and want to get more comfortable with your new medical companion, stethoscope, then here is all that you need to know.

Origin of Stethoscope

The early year’s stethoscopes were just little more than ear tubes. The first stethoscope was invented by Rene Laennec in 1816 at the Necker Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris, France. Though there were few modifications in the design, the present design is because of Dr. David Littmann from Harvard University. Dr. David Littmann made the stethoscope lighter and more efficient to deliver better acoustics.

What is Auscultation?

The process of listening to various sounds in the body is known as auscultation. In Latin, auscultation means the act of listening. Hence, when we use a stethoscope to track body sounds, then we are practicing auscultation. (know more)

Different Parts of Stethoscopes

A stethoscope comprises various parts to deliver effective functionality. Except for the electronic stethoscopes that deliver digital amplify sounds; here are the common parts of a stethoscope.

The most vital part of a stethoscope is its diaphragm. It is the bigger, flatter side of the chest piece. The stethoscope comprises a bell which is smaller and concave in shape. The bell has a hole in it. You can switch between a bell and diaphragm by twisting the Chestpiece to 180 degrees angle. You would hear a click sound, every time you change the position.

The bell of the stethoscope is used to hear low-frequency sounds while the diaphragm is used to listen to high-frequency sounds. There is tubing, which transfers the sound from Chestpiece to ear tips. Other than this, the other parts of stethoscopes are ear tube, headset, and a stem.

How does the Stethoscope work?

The diaphragm of the stethoscope is sealed within a membrane that vibrates like an eardrum of the body. When the diaphragm is placed on the patient’s body, then this moves the column of air inside the stethoscope tube down and up. This, in turn, moves the air in and out of the ear canal. This way, you can listen to the sound.

The diaphragm has a bigger surface area than the surface of the column of air that moves in the tube. The air in the tube must move more than the frequency of the diaphragm, resulting in magnification of the pressure waves that would pass to ear tip. Within the ear, there are larger pressure waves that make the sound louder. Hence, in this way, the stethoscope amplifies the sounds. (read more)

How to Wear the Stethoscope?

You need to place the ear tips in your ears and twist them gently till they point forward, towards your nose. If you do it the right way, then you are making a good seal. This way, the sounds become clearer.

Holding the Stethoscope – The essential tip is that in most of the situations you would want to hold the chest piece between the distal areas of your middle and index finger on the dominant hand. This allows for a more firm grip than holding the stethoscope with your fingertips around the edge of the bell or diaphragm because it enables to press against the patient. At the same time, it obstructs sound generated by rubbing the stethoscope.
Placing the Stethoscope – You need to place the Chestpiece, which can be a bell or diaphragm against the skin for proper sound transmission. With changes in pressure level, you can diagnose the sound frequency at different levels.

Bell vs. Diaphragm

Both bell and diaphragm have the same functionality that is to listen to sounds. But they differ in frequency levels. The diaphragm is ideal for pitching high-frequency sounds, such as normal heart sound or breathing sound. On the other hand, the bell is ideal to detect lower pitch sounds, such as bowel movements and heart murmurs. It is even useful to detect bruits and to hear heart sounds.
If you are performing an important cardiac diagnosis, then you must use the diaphragm. Additionally, you must repeatedly diagnose the person with the bell. When you use the bell, make sure you hold the patient’s skin gently. This would help you hear the low frequency sounds more firmly than the higher ones.

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Which Stethoscope to Buy?

You can buy a stethoscope based on your preferences and within your preferred budget limit. If you are buying a high-quality stethoscope, then you would be spending more. At the same time, check the unique requirements of your medical professional. There are exclusive stethoscopes available for cardiologists, pediatric, physicians, medical students, nurses, and more. Avoid spending gobs of bucks on the stethoscope until and unless you gain proficiency in using it. To get more details, you even visit our stethoscope’s buyer guide page.

Maintaining Your Stethoscope

It is essential that your stethoscope is treated for infection control. You need to clean your stethoscope regularly, specifically the chest piece. You can use a 70% alcohol prepared solution to wipe the Chestpiece and stethoscope. It is essential to keep your stethoscopes clean to avoid transmission of any patient to patient disease and if possible, you should wear medical gloves while touching or examining patients.