Finding the best stethoscope really means finding the one that is best for your particular speciality and personal preferences. It is true that some stethoscopes and brands of stethoscopes are just better quality than others; however, even the best of the best isn’t the right choice for every use.
How to Choose the best stethoscope?
There are several factors to consider when choosing which one to purchase. We’ll cover those before we get into stethoscope reviews so that you can keep in mind your own personal needs/desires.
Audio Quality And Sensitivity
One of the most critical factors when using a stethoscope is whether you can actually hear what you are listening for and distinguish it from the background or ambient noise. It is important for most professionals that their stethoscopes be suitable for use in different settings, from the patient’s hospital room to the chaotic emergency room.
Additionally, some healthcare providers such as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) need to be able to hear subtle heart and lung sounds in environments like beside a noisy street or the back of an ambulance.
The need for great audio quality and sensitivity will determine whether you choose a single lumen or double lumen stethoscope. Lumens are the tubes running from the chest pieces to the binaurals.
Also read: 7 Best Stethoscope for Medical Students
Many of the least expensive stethoscopes will have a single lumen that splits to connect to each binaural. These are normally sufficient for use in a general examination but will likely not provide the level of audio perception needed to detect slight nuances in heart or lung sounds.
Double lumen stethoscopes have two tubes connecting the chest piece to the binaurals, one to each binaural. Double lumen styles have the superior audio quality to single lumen models and, as a result, are used by most healthcare professionals who need to hear subtleties in heart or other sounds. As can be expected, these cost more than single lumen stethoscopes.
Also check: 4 Best Stethoscope for Doctors
Tunable Diaphragm Vs Separate Diaphragm And Bell
There are two basic styles of chest pieces to choose from, one with the traditional diaphragm and bell or one with a tunable diaphragm. In the traditional style, the diaphragm is used to hear high frequencies such as heart sounds and the bell is used to hear low frequencies such as breath sounds. The diaphragm and bell are located on opposite sides of the chest piece and the health professional switches back and forth between the two depending on what they are listening to.
A tunable (or dual frequency) diaphragm is a patented feature available on Littman stethoscopes. With this technology, the diaphragm and bell are combined into one unit. To hear low-frequency sounds, very light pressure is applied to the chest piece. To hear high frequencies, firm pressure is used.
You may also check: 7 Best Stethoscope for Nurses
Your specialization (or lack thereof) will play an important role in your stethoscope needs. In a general or family practice, a nurse or doctor will need to have both standard size and pediatric stethoscopes. Specialists such as a paediatrician who sees only small children may only need a pediatric unit. The need for both will usually mean the practitioner needs two stethoscopes; however, there are a few such as some of the Littman tunable diaphragm models that contain both adult and pediatric diaphragms. This is possible due to the lack of a separate bell.
Comfort of Stethoscope
Finding a comfortable stethoscope is really just about a few key features:
Soft earpieces: The earpieces should be soft and pliable yet provide a good seal.
Adjustable spring tension: You will want to be able to adjust the pressure on the binaurals.
Stethoscopes can be purchased with different lengths of tubing. Although some people say that a shorter tube provides better sound quality, your height should be taken into consideration to minimize bending and stooping when using the stethoscope.
A lightweight model will be more comfortable for carrying around the neck.
Also check: 7 Best Stethoscope for EMT and Paramedics
Customization and Personalization
Probably the least important factor in choosing a stethoscope but one to still consider is the ability to customize it. Many manufacturers offer custom colors and engraving. While those things aren’t critical, if all other factors are the same, this could play a part in your decision.
Remember, it’s ok to have fun at work and what is more fun than a cheetah print or camouflage stethoscope?