The Top 5 Best Stethoscopes For EMTs and Paramedics in 2023

Updated Jan 2023

Table of Contents

Looking for the best stethoscope for an EMT or Paramedic can be a daunting task. Stethoscopes are one of the most important tools in an EMT or Paramedics arsenal. They allow them to listen to the normally inaudible noises the body makes.

They can be used to assess the lungs, bowels, and even detect signs of crepitus when dealing with a suspected bone fracture. EMT-Basics will find that they use stethoscopes every day to not only listen to lung sounds but to check blood pressure. This is called gaining auscultated blood pressure.

While many ambulances and ER have access to automated blood pressure machines, sometimes these can malfunction, or bumps in the road can lead to false readings. The most accurate way to check blood pressure is to use an old-school blood pressure cuff and a good stethoscope.

 

Listening to lung sounds absolutely requires a good Stethoscope. A guide on proper lung sound assessment can be found here: 8 Lung Sounds Every EMT Should Know.

Paramedics need to have a good stethoscope as well. Not only are they useful in lung sound assessment, but Paramedics will need to check ET tube placement in the event of advanced airway placement.

Epigastric auscultation is also important to alert the responder if they are filling the stomach with air. Not only is the patient no longer receiving air in this case but they are also prone to vomit when the stomach is inflated.

Our Top 3 Picks for Best Stethoscope for EMTs and Paramedics

3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope

3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope, Black Chestpiece, Tube, Stem and Headset, 27 inch, 8480

Our Top Pick

The Littmann Core Digital Stethoscope is the best on the market. Not only is it durable, but it is digitally enhanced for unparalleled sound quality. This is a great choice for Paramedics and critical care transport personnel.

Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
5/5
Stability:
5/5

3M Littmann Cardiology IV Stethoscope

3M Littmann Stethoscope, Cardiology IV, Black Tube, Black Chestpiece, 27 Inch, 6163

The Runner Up

The Cardiology IV is everything great about the Core. Except it isn’t digitally enhanced. Great sound and durability in a professional package. This scope is great for EMTs and paramedics that want the best at a good price.

Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
4.5/5
Stability:
5/5

MDF Acoustica Lightweight Stethoscope

MDF Acoustica Lightweight Stethoscope for Doctors, Nurses, Students, Home Health Use, Adult, Dual Head, Black Tube, Black Chestpiece-Headset, MDF747XPBO

Best Budget Scope

MDF Acoustica Stethoscopes are perfect for EMTs that are looking for an entry-level but quality road scope. Fits perfectly in the ear, has good sound, and its single-tube design doesn’t bounce while taking blood pressure.

Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
3.5/5
Stability:
4.5/5

Our Ranking Criteria

When ranking the best stethoscopes for EMTs and Paramedics we realize that first responders have slightly different needs than healthcare workers in a clinical or hospital setting. EMS professionals have to work in various environments. They need to perform accurate assessments and record correct vital signs while in the back of a moving vehicle.

Our criteria focus on the following factors.

  • Comfort
  • Sound Quality
  • Stability

A good stethoscope needs to be comfortable. Bouncing up and down in the back of a rig can result in ear discomfort if your scope has hard plastic earpieces. Those cheap earpieces can move during transport and not only make it hard to hear pulses or breath sounds but agitate your ears.

The sound quality needs to be great as well. One of the biggest distractors is road noise. The gurney is basically bolted to the ambulance floor during transport via the stretcher bracket. A scope with poor sound quality will make it hard to hear anything while the ambulance is in motion.

Stability is our last factor. This has a lot to do with sound quality. If a scope is not able to remain stable during assessment it doesn’t matter how good the sound is. For example, you are using a company-provided stethoscope. It has exposed duel lumen tubes. This scope may sound great in a clinical setting. However, in a prehospital setting those tubes can knock together and make it hard to hear important vital signs and assessments.

The Top 5 Best Stethoscopes for EMTs and Paramedics

Below you will find a round-up of our choices for the best stethoscopes for EMTs and Paramedics. This list was created from a stethoscope we have used in the field as well as recommendations from other first responders.

Along with our top three choices, we have included seven more choices. Just as everyone’s ears are different you may wish to explore other options beyond our top choices.

1. 3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope

Our Top Pick

The Littmann Core digital is the best stethoscope on the market. You can seamlessly switch between analog and digital listening modes. 

Why is this important? If you are a paramedic, transport RN, or simply hearing impaired this stethoscope allows you to amplify the sound by up to 40x. This means you can listen to a heart and actually be able to hear abnormal heart tones. Something that is virtually unheard of in the pre-hospital setting.

The same goes for bowel sounds, lung sounds, and any other listening-based assessment. A cool feature of this scope is the mobile app. You can record what you hear. This is great for emergency situations. You can perform your assessment and listen later when you do your report.

3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope, Black Chestpiece, Tube, Stem and Headset, 27 inch, 8480
Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
5/5
Stability:
5/5

The Core is an amazing piece of patient care technology. That being said, the Core is not cheap. It is easily the most expensive stethoscope on this list. But even at its price tag, we can’t another stethoscope that has the functionality and use cases that this scope provides. As an EMT basic, you probably do not need this stethoscope for taking blood pressure or basic assessments but if you are hearing impaired this thing is a godsend.

Pros

  • Unmatched sound quality
  • Multiple ear tips for a custom fit
  • Mobile application for easy assessment
  • Amazing for hearing-impaired providers

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Relies on batteries

2. Littmann Cardiology IV

The Runner Up

The Littmann Cardiology IV is the go-to stethoscope for healthcare professionals. This scope has the best sound quality next to the Littmann Core. The only reason the Core wins out is that you can digitally enhance the sound.

The Littmann Cardiology IV features a dual tube design encased in a single outer tube. This is perfect for working in an ambulance. This scope allows you to hear lung sounds, bowel sounds, and heart tones with ease as you are traveling down the road.

The Cardiology IV is a tough stethoscope. It is backed by 3M’s 7-year warranty. If you manage to break this stethoscope within that time they will repair or replace it.

3M Littmann Stethoscope, Cardiology IV, Black Tube, Black Chestpiece, 27 Inch, 6163
Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
4.5/5
Stability:
5/5

This Littmann is great for adult and pediatric patients. The bell twists around. One side of the bell is intended for adult patients and the small bell is intended for pediatrics. This makes the Cardiology IV one of the most versatile stethoscopes money can buy,

The Cardiology IV is an industry-standard stethoscope. It offers best-in-class features and is perfect in hospital and pre-hospital settings. Its price is on the higher end, however, it is the first and last scope you will have to purchase.

If you are a current paramedic or an EMT looking to become a paramedic and make EMS your career then the Littmann Cardiology IV is definitely a stethoscope you should consider purchasing.

Pros

  • Duel lumen single tube design grants great sound quality
  • Seamless transition between adult and pediatric modes
  • Custom-fit, multiple ear pieces, and available in multiple colors or patterns

Cons

  • Higher-end scope means a higher-end price
  • They sometimes grow legs and walk off the ambulance, so don’t leave it unattended

3. MDF Acoustica Lightweight Stethoscope

Best Budget Scope

The MDF Acoustica is an amazing stethoscope for the price. It fits nicely in your ears and has multiple ear tips for a custom fit. Granted the tips sometimes do not feel secure in the ears.  This is a great entry scope for new EMTs and even EMT students.

This is a single-lumen stethoscope. However, the tube is encased in a durable coating and it is designed to prevent the tube from kinking. This is great for EMTs because you can carry this scope in your side pocket and not worry about the tube becoming kinked.

Being a single-lumen stethoscope, the MDF Acoustica does not have the sound quality of duel lumen stethoscopes like a Littmann. However, it sounds great for its price and is perfect for lung sounds and blood pressures. There is almost no reason an EMT shouldn’t consider purchasing one of these. 

MDF Acoustica Lightweight Stethoscope for Doctors, Nurses, Students, Home Health Use, Adult, Dual Head, Black Tube, Black Chestpiece-Headset, MDF747XPBO
Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
3.5/5
Stability:
4.5/5

You can typically find an MDF Acoustica for under 30 dollars. Even at its affordable price, this scope functions like it should cost more. If you are looking for a nice entry-level scope that can last an entire EMS career than the Aucoustica could be perfect for you. MDF Instruments has a lifetime warranty. So your scope is covered should it get damaged while on duty.

Pros

  • Amazing Price
  • Great Sound
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Multiple eartips

Cons

  • Could have a better fit
  • Hard to hear specific heart tones and other softer sounds

4. ADC Adscope 615 Platinum Sculpted Clinician Stethoscope

ADC ADSCOPES is another overlooked brand. They are manufactured from CNC machined precision and are among the most affordable scopes on this list.

The ADC ADSCOPE 615 is all about ease of use. It features an oversized bell for ease of use that is made of lightweight zinc alloy.

The ear tips are also very comfortable and the scope comes packaged in multiple sizes for the perfect fit.

ADC Adscope 615 Platinum Sculpted Clinician Stethoscope with Tunable AFD Technology, Tactical
Comfort:
4.5/5
Sound Quality:
4/5
Stability:
5/5

Like the Littmann, the scope has a sensitive drum that allows for frequency differences based on how firm the scope is pressed on skin surfaces. 

The clinician headset of the ADC stethoscope is designed with comfort and acoustic performance in mind. The headset features a reinforcing yoke molded into flexible 22-inch PVC tubing, stainless binaural, and Adsoft Plus silicone ear tips for an optimal wearing experience. 

The ear tips provide an acoustic seal that ensures clear and accurate sound transmission. The fit is very snug, however after prolonged periods the ADC 615 began to feel hot and uncomfortable in the ears.

Additionally, the stethoscope comes with two additional pairs of Adsoft Plus ear tips and a complimentary scope ID tag.

AFD stethoscopes come with a lifetime warranty and free “consumables” when registered, including diaphragms and ear tips. This means you can rely on the stethoscope for years to come without worrying about replacements or repairs.

Pros

  • Great Sound
  • Fits very snug
  • Lifetime Warranty

Cons

  • Uncomfortable after prolonged use
  • No pediatric bell

5. Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope

The Littman Classic III is an industry-standard stethoscope. It offers superior acoustics and fits my ears great. This is the stethoscope that I personally use on the road.

The Littman Classic III allows me to hear everything. It makes blood pressure easy to hear and the lung sounds nice and clear.

The biggest difference between Classic III and Cardiology IV is the sound quality. The Cardiology IV has noticeably clearer sounds but is also twice the price.

The diaphragm is easy to clean and long-lasting thanks to the material it is made from being resistant to oils and salts produced by human skin.

3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803
Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
4/5
Stability:
5/5

The Littman Classic III stethoscope offers a range of features to enhance its performance. It has high acoustic sensitivity for performing general physical assessments, and dual-tunable diaphragms on both the adult and pediatric sides of the chest piece. The single-piece diaphragm is easy to detach and clean, and the pediatric side can be converted to a traditional open bell.

Like the Cardiology IV the Classic III also features a dual lumen tube encased in a PVC lining to keep the tubes secure and they do not move while assessing patients in the back of an ambulance.

The tubing has improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol and is available in multiple colors and finishes. Additionally, it is made without harmful materials such as natural rubber latex or phthalate plasticizers and comes with a 5-year warranty.

Pros

  • Great Sound
  • Easy adult and pediatric assessment
  • Perfect fit, not too snug.
  • Half the price of a Cardiology IV

Cons

  • No real downsides

What Does an EMT or Paramedic Use a Stethoscope For?

Stethoscopes are one of the most important tools in an EMT or Paramedics arsenal. They allow them to listen to the normally inaudible noises the body makes.

They can be used to assess the lungs, bowels, and even detect signs of crepitus when dealing with a suspected bone fracture. EMT-Basics will find that they use stethoscopes every day to not only listen to lung sounds but to check blood pressure. This is called gaining auscultated blood pressure.

While many ambulances and ER have access to automated blood pressure machines, sometimes these can malfunction, or bumps in the road can lead to false readings. The most accurate way to check blood pressure is to use an old-school blood pressure cuff and a good stethoscope.

Listening to lung sounds absolutely requires a good Stethoscope. A guide on proper lung sound assessment can be found here: 8 Lung Sounds Every EMT Should Know.

Paramedics need to have a good stethoscope as well. Not only are they useful in lung sound assessment, but Paramedics will need to check ET tube placement in the event of advanced airway placement.

Epigastric auscultation is also important to alert the responder if they are filling the stomach with air. Not only is the patient no longer receiving air in this case but they are also prone to vomit when the stomach is inflated.

Why You Should Have Your Own Stethoscope

Virtually every ambulance company will provide stethoscopes for their first responders. This means that every ambulance will already have a pair for you to use. GREAT! So why would you need a pair of ears for yourself?

Well, think about how many crews use that ambulance. Now think about how many other people’s ears that those company-provided stethoscopes have been in.

The stethoscopes provided by ambulance companies are cheap. Sometimes it is hard to hear respirations, auscultated blood pressures, etc. By investing in a stethoscope of your own you can make sure you get a quality instrument that will allow you to do the job effectively.

Also, the stethoscope is yours and will be in no one else’s ears.

Stethoscopes an EMT or Paramedic Should Avoid

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope, Black

Dual Lumen Stethoscopes are an attractive choice due to their cheap prices and decent acoustics. In a hospital or nursing home setting these scopes work just fine.

However, on the road, an EMT or Paramedic has to deal with road noise and bumps. When the ambulance hits a bump, or if the rig is traveling down a dirt road the separate lumens can bang against each other and make it hard to listen for pulses and lung sounds.

Your patients are depending on you for care. You will not do them any good if you can not accurately hear the sounds you need to.

For less than the price of these dual-lumen scopes, you can get yourself an MDF Acoustica.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of stethoscope do EMTs use?

The MDF Acoustica is a great choice for EMTs. It offers great sound and features for a low price.

Do I Need a Stethoscope for EMT Class?

Yes, in addition to a BP cuff, pens, and trauma shears, an EMT will need a stethoscope in order to learn the basics of good patient assessment.

What is the Best Stethoscope for Listening to Lung Sounds?

The 3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope is the best possible stethoscope for listening to lung sounds as you can digitally enhance what you hear. The Cardiology IV and Classic III are also great choices.

How Do I Choose the Best Stethoscope?

When looking for a stethoscope, it’s important to consider 10 key features to ensure you find one that’s right for you.

High-quality acoustics is crucial for accurately detecting sounds, so look for a stethoscope with good sound clarity.

The fit of the stethoscope is also important, so consider the type of medical specialty you work in and choose a stethoscope that’s suitable.

The chest piece should be tunable, allowing you to switch between low and high frequencies, and the diaphragm should be flexible for different body types.

It’s also important to choose a stethoscope that’s easy to clean, made from durable materials, and comfortable to use for long periods. Consider the versatility of the stethoscope, as well as the cost, and make sure it meets your personal preferences.

3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope, Black Chestpiece, Tube, Stem and Headset, 27 inch, 8480

3M™ Littmann® CORE Digital Stethoscope

Our Top Pick

The Littmann Core Digital Stethoscope is the best on the market. Not only is it durable, but it is digitally enhanced for unparalleled sound quality. This is a great choice for Paramedics and critical care transport personnel.

Comfort:
5/5
Sound Quality:
5/5
Stability:
5/5
About Me

About Me

I have 13+ years of EMS experience in the Metro Detroit area. I currently work on the road and instruct at a community college in the Tucson Arizona Area. I want to share my experience and knowledge in helping you start your medical career. Working in EMS is a great way to get that foot in the door. Many EMTs go on to become Paramedics, Doctors, ER Techs, Nurses, and other high-paying medical roles.

We all start somewhere, and becoming an EMT could be your first step into a rewarding career.

Mike

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