What Is A Stethoscope Used For?

(Updated: 2019)

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 pressures is to use an old school blood pressure cuff and a good stethoscope.

Listening to lungs sounds absolutely require 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 ever 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 company 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 no one else’s ears will be in it.

The 5 Best Stethoscopes for EMT’s and Paramedics in 2019

Here are the top 5 recommended stethoscopes. These recommendations come from my experience with various brands and companies. We also asked some of the medics at the station that I work at and these are the stethoscopes that they recommend also.

StethoscopeRatingPrice Point 
3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope4.7/5$$$amazonbuybutton
MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope4.5/5$$amazonbuybutton
3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope4.4/5$$$amazonbuybutton
ADC ADSCOPE 615 Platinum Professional Clinician Stethoscope4.3/5$amazonbuybutton
ADC ADSCOPE 603 Clinician Stethoscope4.3/5$amazonbuybutton

3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope (Best Overall)

The Littman Classic III is an industry standard stethoscope. It offers superior acoustics and dual tunable diaphragms for adult and pediatric patients. This is the stethoscope that I personally use on the road.

The Littman Classic III allows me to hear everything. It makes blood pressures easy to hear and lung sounds nice and clear. This model is easy to clean and comes with multiple earpieces for the perfect fit.

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.

Classic III stethoscope features:

(Taken from Amazon Product Page)

1. High acoustic sensitivity for performing general physical assessments.

2. Tunable diaphragms on both the adult and pediatric sides of the chest piece.

3. A new single-piece diaphragm that’s easy to attach and easy to clean because the surface is smooth without crevices.

4. Pediatric side of the chest piece converts to a traditional open bell by replacing the single-piece diaphragm with a non-chill rim.

5. Next-generation tubing with improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol for longer tubing life. Less likely to pick up stains.

6. No natural rubber latex or phthalate plasticizers are used in the tubing or any other component—to help protect human health and the environment.

7. Available in multiple tubing colors and chest piece finishes. Plus, every Classic III stethoscope comes with a five-year warranty.

MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope (Best For The Money)

The MDF MD is an often overlooked Stethoscope. When asked, most responders and healthcare workers will remark that Littmann is a great stethoscope.

Don’t get me wrong, Littmann is a great company with great products. However, they are not the only game in town. MDF Instrument has been handcrafting Stethoscopes since 1971.

This scope features stainless steel and latex free construction. The company offers a lifetime warranty with free parts replacement.

The acoustic tubing is made from a dense and thick latex-free PVC and offers superior sound for auscultation of lungs, heart, and gastric sounds.

This product is comfortable and features silicone earpieces with 2 additional sizes included in the package. The audio tube is also longer than other stethoscopes for increased space between patient and attendant.

Product Points: (Taken From Amazon Product Page)

    • Handcrafted Since 1971 | Free-parts-for-life Program | Lifetime Warranty | Latex-free |
    • 100% stainless steel construction and acoustically-superior stainless steel
    • Includes 3 pairs of MDF ComfortSeal ear tips: Small, Regular, and Large. Eartips are included in our Free-parts-for-life Program
    • SECURED TWICE Dual-leaf spring construction offers twice the durability
    • PREVENT PUNCTURED EAR DRUMS Patented SafetyLock Eartip Adaptors are non-invasive and leads the industry in user safety
  • Included Accessories: 2 extra sets ComfortSeal ear tips, spare ultrasensitive diaphragm, and ID tag

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope (Lightest to Carry)

This is the second Littmann product on this list. The Littmann Lightweight II is a solid Stethoscope choice. It has high marks for patient comfort and is a great entry-level instrument.

The Littmann offers superior acoustics. However, this scope is mostly for adult patients and suffers in the pediatric area. It features the same quality construction as other instruments by this company.

The auscultation tube is made from a non-latex construction and comes with spare ear tips for correct sizing.

Littmann stethoscopes feature a tunable diaphragm technology. This allows the practitioner to adjust the frequency of sounds based on how firmly they press the scope to a patient’s skin. This helps with identifying proper sounds. It is made in the USA and features a 2-year warranty.

Product Points: (Taken From Amazon Product Page)

  • Reliable and clear acoustic response and light weight combine to make this an ideal entry-level instrument
  • Tunable diaphragm responds with a simple pressure change to capture low and high-frequency sounds
  • Tear-drop shape for easy fit under blood pressure cuff
  • An anatomically designed headset is angled to meet the path of the ear canal
  • Nonchill rim and diaphragm provide welcome patient comfort

ADC ADSCOPE 615 Platinum Professional Clinician Stethoscope (Most User-Friendly)

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 with multiple sizes for the perfect fit.

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.

ADC Scopes are rugged and come with a lifetime warranty. This is backed with amazing customer service.

Product Points: (Taken From Amazon Product Page)

  • Adjustable frequency design (AFD) provides the acoustic response of a traditional bell and diaphragm into a convenient one-sided chest piece.
  • Oversized, sculpted ovoid chest piece is CNC precision machined from lightweight zinc alloy plated with an attractive satin finish, enhancing both acoustic performance and ergonomics.
  • Clinician headset features reinforcing yoke molded into flexible 22-inch PVC tubing, stainless binaurals, and Adsoft Plus silicone ear tips for the ultimate in wearing comfort and acoustic seal.
  • Includes two additional pairs of Adsoft Plus ear tips and a complementary scope ID tag.
  • Lifetime warranty and free “consumables,” including diaphragms and ear tips, when registered.

ADC ADSCOPE 603 Clinician Stethoscope (Most Affordable – Editors Choice)

I saved this one for the last spot on this list. The ADC ADSCOPE 603 is my stethoscope of choice.

It is lightweight, rugged, has great acoustics and is very affordable, especially, for EMT and Medics new to the field or on a budget.

Like its big brother above, this scope is created with CNC machines and engineered to provide the best possible sound in a variety of circumstances.

It features a turnable bell to allow high and low frequencies to be heard. Also like the 615, pressure on the surface allow for adjustable tones as well.

The ADC 603 is rugged and comes with a lifetime warranty. The headset portion is ergonomically angled to allow for maximum comfort and comes packaged with additional ear tips for a custom fit. This is the scope I use and it has not failed me in the 6 years I have owned one.

Product Points: (Taken From Amazon Product Page)

  • The combination chest piece is CNC machined to exacting tolerances from surgical stainless steel. Ultra-sensitive, non-chill diaphragm for greater amplification and crisper high-frequency transmission; extra-large, non-chill bell for an unsurpassed low-frequency response.
  • Adjustable frequency design (AFD) enhances acoustic performance.
  • Clinician headset features reinforcing yoke molded into flexible 22-inch PVC tubing, stainless steel binaural (tactical finish has black anodized aluminum binaural), and Adsoft Plus silicone ear tips for the ultimate in wearing comfort and acoustic seal.
  • Includes two additional pairs of Adsoft Plus ear tips and a complementary scope ID tag.
  • Lifetime warranty and free “consumables,” including diaphragms and ear tips, when registered.

Stethoscopes to Avoid

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 the price of two of these dual lumen scopes, you can get yourself an ADC 603.

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