How to Use a Stethoscope: The Matchless Guide

We all know stethoscopes from our childhood and learning how to use a stethoscope was an ultimate desire. Usually, stethoscopes were used by doctors and physicians, and still, they are symbols of paramedical staff. But stethoscopes are way more versatile than that.

So to resolve all the queries about stethoscope and how to use it, are discussed in this article. We have conducted deep research about the tool, it’s functioning.

If you are new to the medical field, stethoscopes are going to be with you whatever you examine. So instead of just starting from zero, you must have an insight into how to use a stethoscope. It will enlighten your knowledge and you will have a strong understanding of it.

Importance of Learning How to Use a Stethoscope

How to Use a Stethoscope

Learning how to use a stethoscope and how it works is extremely important for all kinds of paramedical staff. As your job is to use it on a daily basis, getting used to it and mastering it is really important. You will have to buy top-quality stethoscopes for the right assessment of the patient’s condition.

The following guide will help you to understand how to use a stethoscope, what are the important parts, what uses a stethoscope can have, and many other important aspects.

So let’s get started.

Origin of the Stethoscope

In 1816, some tubular tool was found in Paris by Rene Laennec. Those stethoscopes were not up to the mark, and many alterations came later on until Dr. David Littman devised the latest version of a stethoscope with Good acoustic and better diagnostics of diseases.

Auscultation: Auscultation is the process in which internal sounds of a body have listened through a stethoscope. The word auscultate originates from the Latin word auscultation-means the act of listening. So listening with a stethoscope is called auscultation.

How does a stethoscope work

The diaphragm exactly works as our eardrum. It has a sealed membrane that vibrates as the sound touches the tightly sealed membrane. Then the air column is generated by a sound wave in the tube of the stethoscope.


The chest piece of the stethoscope which is also known as the head is placed against the patient’s skin. The stethoscope can have chest pieces on its one side only, or it can have chest pieces on it’s both sides.

Those with one-sided chest pieces have only one diaphragm. Those whose chest piece is on both sides, their one side acts as a bell and the other side acts as a diaphragm.

The diaphragm picks high-pitched sounds such as normal breath sounds, whereas, the bell picks low-pitched sounds such as heart murmurs. When sound is produced within the body, the diaphragm which is placed on the body vibrates. These vibrations travel through the tube into the earpiece.

Through the earpiece, these vibrations reach the eardrum and cause its vibration. These vibrations are interpreted by the mind as noise, which is heard by the doctor. For example, heart sounds are transmitted as vibrations and heard as ‘lub-dub’ by the doctor.

How to wear a stethoscopeHow to wear a stethoscope

Wearing a stethoscope is easy but a little bit technical. First of all, put the ear tips in your ears and twist them inwards until they make a vacuum.

The right direction of the air tips creates a proper seal and you get quite loud sounds. this way the noise of the room fades away and you get quiet clear sounds.

How to hold a stethoscope

hold a stethoscope

The technique of holding it is quite simple. All you need is a firm and gentle grip to avoid any extra sounds/noise your figures might produce.

So hold a stethoscope in between your index and the middle finger from the center and press it firmly on the patient’s chest this can give you a loud and clear sound of the internal body.

How to place a stethoscope

The placement of the stethoscope is no big deal. just you have to learn the proper way of placement. a stethoscope’s chest piece (bell or diaphragm) is directly placed on the skin for better transmission of sound. You can also place it on one layer of cloth, but this is not the proper way to use it. As neither, it is recommended nor it gives accurate results.

Things a stethoscope can do

Stethoscopes are so versatile that you can get 90% of your clinicians using a stethoscope. Learning and mastering the use of a stethoscope helps you to have flawless diagnostics.

1. Using a stethoscope to measure Blood pressure:

a stethoscope to measure Blood pressure

This is one of the most common uses of a stethoscope. But how to use it to measure BP is an art that is done inaccurately most of the time. To measure blood pressure with a stethoscope, the placement of the BP cuff is very important.

The common teaching of BP measurement says that diastolic 120/180 is when the cuff of the sphygmomanometer’s cuff is inflated and a stethoscope diaphragm is placed under it. The low-frequency sounds as Korotkoff are generated and heard with a stethoscope.

2. How to Use a stethoscope to listen to heart sounds

stethoscope to listen heart sounds

When anyone goes for a physical examination with a doctor, the first thing he experiences is a heart sound exam.

So this is a very important and critical part of the examination and cannot be ignored.

Although heart sound examination is not as easy as putting the chest piece on the heart to listen to the heartbeat. One has to press different parts of the heart around your chest to know exactly about heart sounds.

3. How to use a stethoscope to listen to lungs sounds

to listen lungs sound

Listening to the lungs sounds a little bit different from heart sounds. In the same way, the placement of the stethoscope for lung sounds is also different. You get a cold touch of the diaphragm on your bareback.

The noise of breath is higher because of its high frequency so making the use of the bell ineffective. The diaphragm is placed on the thorax on the front and backside to listen to lung sounds.

4. How to use a stethoscope to listen to bowel sounds

to listen bowel sound

Doctors use stethoscopes to detect any abdominal issues like obstruction, constipation, intestinal mobility, or many other problems.

To listen to the bowel sounds, a diaphragm is used and it is placed on the abdominal area. First of all, divide the abdominal area into four imaginary quadrants. Then place the diaphragm on the right lower quadrant and press gently. Avoid palpating or percussing as these things can tense the muscles, altering the bowel sounds.

Keep your stethoscope on the right quadrant until you get your first auscultation. Progress the process clockwise through all three imaginary quadrants, to have a thorough examination.

By following the path of the large intestine, you can get all the bowel sounds.

Gurgling noise is the normoactive bowel sound that occurs at the rate of 3 to 34 per minute.

5. How to use a stethoscope to listen to the bruits

Bruits are audible vascular sounds that are associated with blood flow. Bruits can be normal or can indicate some pathology. The bell of the stethoscope is used to listen to the bruit. The bruit is heard in patients’ necks.

The variation in the length of the neck affects whether you listen to two or three points along the carotid artery. Use your judgment to decide it. You can ask your patient to hold his breath if these sounds interfere with your judgment.

Listening to bruits is very important for the patient with atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, there is a restriction of blood flow due to the buildup of the fat cholesterol, and other substances in is also known as heart disease

Storage of Stethoscope:

Make sure to store your stethoscope wisely when you are not using it.

Proper storage is extremely important in case you want your stethoscope to last long without any errors.

Follow the following instructions in order to keep your stethoscope safe.

  • Make sure the stethoscope is kept at a normal temperature. Extreme hot or cold weather conditions may cause damage to the tubing.
  • If you store your stethoscope in any handbag or pocket, it can break the tube and can get dirty because of the dust, dirt, or lint. So avoid keeping it in any such places
  • Keep your stethoscope away from any kind of solvents, grease, or oils to avoid any potential damage.
  • Sunlight and UV rays can also damage and crack the stethoscope so don’t expose the stethoscope to these rays.

How to clean and maintain a stethoscope

How to clean a stethoscope

Maintaining your stethoscope increases its life. Mistreating your medical aid can put your patient’s life at high risk. While buying your stethoscope, you should not opt for a lighter color as all the markings are highly visible to the patient and it requires more care and cleanliness, while dark colors don’t show any marks to the patient and require less pampering.

Stethoscopes should be protected from extremely high temperatures. Cleaning of stethoscopes is very necessary as 80 percent of them carry different microbes from hospitals.

Let’s discuss some points on how to take general care of a stethoscope and keep it clean.

General care and infection control:

  • To disinfect stethoscopes use 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
  • Don’t pour the excessive disinfecting solution on your stethoscope.
  • Use handy disinfecting wipes for cleaning purposes
  • Change your earpiece as you acquired certain infections from the hospital. changing earpieces frequently improves sound quality.
  • Remove dust from earpieces frequently to keep your stethoscope up to the mark.
  • Gently remove the diaphragm to remove dust and disinfect it.
  • Avoid contact with minerals oils and extreme temperature changes
  • Store your stethoscope in cold dry places.
  • Disposable covers are available which work wonders in protecting your stethoscope.


1. Why do doctors listen to your back with a stethoscope?

Doctors place the stethoscope diaphragm on the back to listen to the lung’s sound.

2. When to use the stethoscope bell?

The Bell is used to listen to low-frequency sounds.

3. How to use a stethoscope on yourself?

You can use the stethoscope to listen to your heart sound. Just put your stethoscope under the breast, the position where the 4th and 6th ribs join together, Press gently by holding the chest piece in between your index and middle finger. Listen to your heart sound for about one minute.

Final Words

To sum up, using a stethoscope effectively involves maintaining cleanliness, placing the chest piece correctly on the patient’s skin, carefully listening to various body sounds, and documenting your findings. This thorough approach will not only improve your diagnostic skills but also contribute to better patient care.

Hi, I am Rudolf, the creative director at I have been working in the medical field for many years and a part of my job is to review various stethoscopes so that you can choose one according to your specific needs. My reviews have helped many over the years and I am glad that I have been getting highly positive feedback. When I am not working I love playing with my one year old daughter!

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