How to choose a stethoscope that's right for you?
As a student or medical professional, choosing the right stethoscope is a decision you cannot afford to take lightly. On one hand, you want to ensure that you choose something that will actually serve you effectively as a diagnostic tool. On the other hand, you want to ensure you get full value for your money without having to break the bank. In order to make the correct decision, there are several factors to consider. Below is a guideline that should help make it easier for you when shopping for a stethoscope.
Read more: Top 10 Best Rated Stethoscopes For Medical and Nursing Students
Factors to consider
When it comes to figuring out how to choose a stethoscope, below are the 7 key features and specifications to keep an eye out for.
1. Type of stethoscope
There are many different types of stethoscopes
available on the market. One of the main classifications is based on the most appropriate age of patients they can be used on. In this case, there are neonatal, infant, pediatric and adult stethoscopes. They can also be classified in terms of intended purpose in which case there are cardiology, veterinary and regular stethoscopes
If you are a student
, a regular adult stethoscope would be enough as they are effective and cheaper. The rest is ideal for specialists in the specific fields with the exception of the Cardiology Stethoscope
. Cardiology stethoscopes are always better than regular stethoscopes in terms of acoustic quality but are double the price of regular stethoscope except for UltraScopes which are priced around the same price of other regular stethoscopes. They also come with a lifetime warranty.
2. Chest piece design
Something else you need to seriously consider is the chest piece. In this case, you have a lot to choose from including dual-sided chest pieces, single-sided chest pieces, and tunable diaphragm chest pieces.
The dual-sided variety is simple and commonly seen on regular stethoscopes
. The tunable ones, on the other hand, are a lot more convenient and easier to use. However, they are a bit more expensive. They take some learning to get used to as they rely on manual pressure to switch between bell and diaphragm. Once you get used to it they become very easy to switch between low and high-frequency sounds.
3. Sound quality
When it comes to figuring out how to choose a stethoscope, great sound quality should be your number one priority. This is determined by many different things. One is the sensitivity of the chest piece components. In this case, stethoscopes with fiberglass membranes on the bell and diaphragm are the best option. Those with an insulating rim around the chest piece circumference also produce higher sound quality by isolating the sensitivity to the area covered by the chest piece.
Sound quality is also greatly determined by the design of the stethoscope’s tubing. Here, thick tubes are the best. Those with double lumen tubing (mostly found in cardiology stethoscopes) also have much less distortion ensuring clearer sound quality.
Finally, sound quality may be influenced by the design of the earbuds. In this case, settle for those with a snug fit and noise cancellation effects. This allows you to have more focused and clear sound transmission into your ear.
Something else you should really consider when choosing a stethoscope is how comfortable it is when worn. In this case, the spotlight should be on the earpiece. A good stethoscope should have a feature that supports the metallic acoustic tubes. These structures keep the tubes separate and prevent any discomfort of the feeling of compression against the ears.
Longer length tubing also helps keep a comfortable distance between you and the patient during examinations. Tubing length can vary between 22 - 30 inches. Learn more about the effects of long vs short tubing here. 22 inches are sometimes very short forcing you to go very close to a patient.
This is a critical factor. You want to avoid those brands that have a negative reputation, and go for those that are trusted and have a solid backing. There are some brands that you can never go wrong with as far as quality is concerned. These include brands like Ultrascope, Littmann, MDF instruments
and many others.
When choosing a stethoscope you should also consider the warranty offered by the manufacturer. How long is it? And what does it cover? For the most part, stethoscopes come with pretty long warranties ranging from 5 to 10 years or more. Some brands like Ultrascope actually offer a lifetime warranty. This is a reflection of the quality you can expect in terms of construction, design
, and performance of the stethoscope. It goes without saying that those with long warranties are definitely worth considering.
Finally, you will want to factor in price into your decision when you want to choose a stethoscope. In this case, all you have to do is to take your time and figure out what is out there in your preferred price range and settle on the highest quality model. You could also use customer reviews to get a better idea of what to expect from the pocket-friendly options. This is the best way to ensure that the investment you make is actually worth it.
Littmann brand and MDF tend to be more expensive being the 2 oldest brands in the market. However, other brands like Ultrascope
have brought in some new innovation in stethoscopes but at a much more affordable range.
Then there are really cheap disposable stethoscopes that cost less than $20 but they don't last very long.
In conclusion, you cannot afford to compromise on sound quality, great design, and easy operability. With the guidelines above, you should know exactly where to start your search in order to ensure that you make a decision that you will be able to live with. That way, figuring out how to choose a stethoscope will not be rocket science but simply striking a balance between priorities and preferences.
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