Whether you are a nurse, a doctor, a physician’s assistant, or you work in the healthcare industry in any capacity, a stethoscope is a must have instrument. The most basic, yet the most vital of all diagnostic medical devices, a stethoscope allows you to take and keep track of your patient’s vital signs; something that is an absolute necessity when performing any type of medical care.
If you are shopping for a new stethoscope, you will find that there are several options available. With so many choices, it can make choosing the best stethoscope for your needs a definite challenge. To help you on your quest for finding the best stethoscope, we have put together this handy buyer’s guide. This guide highlights all of the pertinent information you need to purchase the best stethoscope for your needs, including the different types that are available, the important factors that you should take into consideration when purchasing one, the different features that are available and the best brands of stethoscopes on the market. With the information presented in this buyer’s guide, you will be well informed and ready to find the best stethoscope for your specific needs.
The Types of Stethoscopes
All type of stethoscopes have the same purpose: To monitor vital signs. With that said, different stethoscopes operate in different manners and are better suited for different needs. In order to find the best stethoscope for your specific needs, you first need to have a firm understanding of the different types of stethoscopes that are available.
There are four main types of stethoscopes, which include:
- The acoustic stethoscope
- The electronic stethoscope
- The recording stethoscope
- The fetal stethoscope
Here is a breakdown of these four different types of stethoscopes.
The Acoustic Stethoscope
This is the first type of stethoscope ever designed. It operates by using a chest piece with a hollow tube. The chest piece is placed on the patient’s chest or wrist, or anywhere else where a heartbeat can be easily detected, and transmits a sound through the hollow tube to your ears. The medium for the transmission of sound is the air inside the hallow tubes. The chest piece has two sides; the diaphragm and the bell. The diaphragm creates high frequency sounds, while the bell creates low frequency sounds. The acoustic stethoscope serves its purpose and is usually the least expensive; however, the downside is that the sound level that it creates is usually very low.
The Electronic Stethoscope
The electronic stethoscope, also known as stethophone, amplifies body sounds using electronic transducers. These transducers convert sound waves of the body to electrical signals that are amplified and provide clearer and louder sounds. Thus electronic stethoscopes overcome the drawback of an acoustic stethoscope, which is the low sounds that is creates. An electronic stethoscope can be a wireless device because the sound is transmitted electronically, which is an advantage that many users enjoy. Due to this facto, this type of stethoscope can even enhance and record the signals, provide noise reduction and display audio and visual outputs. Owing to these features an electronic stethoscope can be used from a distance for remote monitoring and diagnosis. The downside of the electronic stethoscope is that is usually has a higher price tag than traditional models.
The Recording Stethoscope
The recording stethoscope is a special type of electronic stethoscope. It connects to an audio output device, which is then connected to a recording device, which means that you can record audio output that you can listen to and evaluate further at a later time. The recordings that are taken can even be shared with your patients and other healthcare providers, which allows for a remote diagnosis. It also allows for very fast and efficient consultations. However, on the downside, the price tag of a recording stethoscope is the steep price tag. However, depending on your needs, the higher price tag could be well worth the investment.
The Fetal Stethoscope
The fetal stethoscope is also referred to as a fetoscope. This type of stethoscope is shaped similarly to a trumpet. The trumpet portion is placed against the abdomen of a pregnant woman and allows you to hear the heart beat of a developing fetus in the womb. The fetal stethoscope was developed by a French obstetrician named Adolphe Pinard, which is why it is also called the Pinard stethoscope by many people who use it.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Stethoscope
There are a number of factors that you should take into consideration when choosing a stethoscope. By considering these factors, you will be able to choose the best stethoscope for your specific needs. Some of the most important factors that you should take consider include the chest piece, the head set, and the ear tips, among other things. To learn more about the most important factors that you should take into consideration when you are shopping for a stethoscope, please keep on reading.
The Chest Piece
The chest piece is a very important part of a stethoscope and is therefore an important factor to take into consideration. The best stethoscopes offer a chest piece that has a complete construction in high density materials, such as stainless steel or titanium. These materials are not only durable, but they allow for excellent performance. Additionally, you should also look for a chest piece that has a hand polished finish on both the outside and the inside. A chest piece that has an unfinished polish internally will have perforations, which will absorb sound, and can interfere with the sound you are trying to pick up. Hand polished chest pieces offer the smoothest and most crisp sound quality.
The Head Set
The head set is another very important part of a stethoscope and the construction of it certainly needs to be taken into consideration when shopping or one. Ideally, a head set will have the same density as the chest piece and it will be angled at 15 degrees. You also want the head set to be constructed of high quality materials that create great sound, such as stainless steel or titanium, which not only provide great acoustics, but also are very durable materials.
Another important factor that should be taken into consideration when shopping for a stethoscope is the diaphragm. Look for one that is well constructed and uses high quality materials. Also, consider having an extra, just in case an accident occurs, such as a puncture.
The tubing is another important factor to consider when choosing a stethoscope. The best stethoscopes offer tubing that has a thick, durable construction that will isolate acoustics from external sounds that can have a negative impact on the sounds you are trying to pick up. The tubing should also insulate the sound that you are picking up. Avoid purchasing a stethoscope that has thin tubing or is made up of a material that is prone to breakage, which can lead to a loss of sound. You should also consider the length of the tubing. The longer it is, the safer the distance you can be from your patient, which may make you both feel more comfortable.
The Ear Tips
You also want to take the construction of the ear tips and the material that they are made of into consideration. Many people think of the ear tips as an afterthought when they are purchasing a stethoscope, but they are very crucial, as they provide more accurate readings. Make sure that the ear tips fit comfortably and securely inside your ear. The best stethoscopes offer ear tips in varying sizes so that you can modify them to get the best fit. Ear tips should not only be comfortable, but they should also create a solid seal inside your ear so as to prevent external sound from pouring in while you are taking a reading.
The stem of the stethoscope can also make a huge difference in the quality and performance of this device. For the best sound experience, you want to purchase a stethoscope that is constructed of the same high quality metal that your chest piece is constructed out of. The best stem will snap into place, which will allow it to reduce sound leakage.
The environment you will be working in
You should also consider the type of environment that you will be working in, as this will play a major role in determining what type of sound quality you will need. If you work in a loud environment, such as an emergency room, an electronic stethoscope can provide you with the best results. However, if you work in a doctor’s office, a standard stethoscope may be a better choice, as it is not as noisy and won’t be as heavy.
The patients you will be working with
You should also consider the type of patients you will be working with, as some stethoscopes are designed to listen better to certain frequencies. For instance, if you work need to hear low frequencies, you may want to choose one that has a dual headed bell instead of one with a single diaphragm.
A big factor to take into consideration when choosing a stethoscope is the amount that you want to spend. Stethoscopes can vary widely in price. More basic models that offer less features will have a lower price tag, while more advanced models that offer more features will have a higher price tag.
The Features Stethoscopes Can Offer
There are a number of features that stethoscopes can offer. These features are intended to improve the function of the stethoscope and provide better readings. As mentioned above, the more features that a stethoscope offers, the more expensive it will be. It is important to understand the different types of features that are available so that you can determine whether you want or need them, and if spending the extra money is worth it for you.
Here is a look at some of the most common features that stethoscopes can offer.
A Name Tag
A stethoscope can come equipped with a name badge, which can make it easier to keep track of your device. This is an especially handy feature to have if you work in an environment where your stethoscope can get misplaced easily.
A Carrying Case
Another feature to consider is a carrying case. With a carrying case, you will have a place to keep your stethoscope, which will keep it clean and safe, and will protect it from being damaged.
A Scope Light
A scope light adds an additional level of functionality to your stethoscope. With this feature, you can easily use your stethoscope to look in patient’s ears and down their throats, for example. This feature makes your stethoscope an even more versatile tool.
The Best Stethoscope Brands
There are several manufacturers that produce stethoscopes, which can make it difficult to determine which one makes the best, most reliable and highest quality stethoscopes. To help you find the best brand, we have assessed user reviews, spoken to medical professionals and test them out ourselves. Our results have indicated that the following brands of stethoscopes are the best of the best.
This company produces some of the highest quality stethoscopes on the market. They are comprised of high quality and durable materials, are very reliable, provide accurate results and offer a range of features.
3M Littmann Select Stethoscope
Another high quality producer of stethoscopes is 3M Littman Select Stethoscopes. This company uses the highest quality and durable materials, manufactures various types of stethoscopes and they last a very long time. They also come equipped with a variety of features.
We found that users and the medical professionals we spoke to reported that POD technical stethoscopes are exceptional. Many people have reported that they provide outstanding results and that they are constructed of durable, high quality materials that they can rely on.
The final brand of stethoscopes that we found were exceptional were MDF MD. This company also uses high quality materials and exceptional construction to create outstanding telescopes that healthcare professionals have been trusting for a long time. This company offers several types of stethoscopes that come equipped with a variety of useful features that users claim add to the efficiency and versatility of the device.