Choosing a Stethoscope

Let's talk stethoscopes. It's a pretty big purchase and an exciting step towards your dream medical career! How do you choose the right one?

A stethoscope is made up of a chest piece, tubing, and ear buds. 

A chest piece includes the diaphragm (for high frequencies) and the bell (for low frequencies). A chest piece may be simple or double. A simple chest piece includes the diaphragm and the bell on one side, and which one you hear just depends on the pressure applied. A dual chest piece stethoscope has the diaphragm on one side and the bell on the other. 

Single lumen means that there is one tube connected to the chest piece, which then splits into two tubes, with each one going into one ear. Double lumen means that there are two tubes attached to the chest piece, and each tube goes directly into one ear. Double lumen stethoscopes are more sensitive than single lumen stethoscopes.

I always used a 3M Classic III Littman only because that's what I purchased for school. It a dual chest piece single lumen stethoscope. At the time I didn't want to dish out the extra money for a dual lumen stethoscope. In retrospect, I feel like that's the time that I should have! Because in practice I got comfortable with what I had. It got the job done.

For students who are about to begin and need to purchase one, I do recommend you consider one of those bigger double tubed stethoscopes such as the Littman Cardiology so that you can have the highest sensitivity when learning how to auscultate the heart and lungs. If you would consider an alternative, I highly recommend you check out the ERKA hand-crafted German stethoscope. You can get a dual chest piece double lumen stethoscope for about the price of the Littman Classic III and the quality is just at good! 

I received an ERKA Finesse2 stethoscope complimentary from Medelita, who is the only company selling the ERKA in the United States right now. So I swapped my Classic Littman III to try it out. I will continue to use it for my last few weeks in family medicine because I do notice a difference in the quality of heart and lung sounds. My first reaction was, "Is this thing on?!". That's how well it eliminated outside noise. And when I did hear those heart and lung sounds they were crisp! Major pro. Only con would be this does feel heavier around my neck. Then again, I am comparing it to a much simpler scope that I wore for years!

I think Medelita does a great job at breaking down the differences of certain stethoscopes on their site, and additionally they have a great comparison chart for ERKA vs. Littman stethoscopes. Check out the details HERE, where you could also shop! I also included the comparison chart below. 


I would love to hear what stethoscope you use and why! Comment your thoughts below!