Last updated, Jan 2019
There is no medical device in an EMT’s kit that is as important as a stethoscope. EMTs use stethoscopes to examine the lungs and heart for abnormal sounds and also determine a patient’s blood pressure.
The decision of purchasing a stethoscope is a big one for most EMT doctors. Should you buy one or borrow? If you want to buy, what model or type of stethoscope will meet your needs?
As an EMT, you will find yourself working in loud, harsh environments. Yet even in these scenarios, you are expected to diagnose your patients accurately. This means the stethoscope you choose must have excellent acoustic capabilities. Moreover, it should be sturdy and portable.
Top 5 Best Stethoscopes for Paramedics and EMTs
The best EMT stethoscopes in the market are:
- Littmann Master Cardiology
- Littmann Cardiology III
- Littmann Master Classic
- Littmann Lightweight
- Littmann Classic II S.E.
Check the comparison table below for an overview of the features of the stethoscopes:
Best EMT Stethoscope Reviews
|USA||5.7 ounces||27 inches||3 years|
|USA||6.6 ounces||27 inches||7 years|
|USA||1.9 ounces||28 inches||2 years|
|USA||5.7 ounces||27 inches||3 years|
|USA||13.6 ounces||27 inches||5 years|
If you are shopping for the best stethoscope for EMTs, read this comprehensive review to know what to look for
Differences Between Various Types of Stethoscopes
If you suspect there might be different types of stethoscopes, you are right. The different medical care units require different designs of stethoscope to meet their specific needs.
For example, a veterinary stethoscope will not meet the requirements of a pediatric doctor. Likewise, EMT doctors require specially designed steths for use in their line of work. The common types of stethoscope are:
- Fetal stethoscope
- Stethoscope for the hearing impaired
- Cardiology stethoscope
- Electronic stethoscope
- Amplified stethoscope
- Acoustic stethoscope
- Veterinary stethoscope
- Pediatric stethoscope
The acoustic stethoscope is the traditional stethoscope that most people know. The model is based on the 20th century Rappaport-Sparague stethoscope. The steth works by transmitting sounds to the medics’ ears from a chest piece via hollow tubes.
The acoustic stethoscope diaphragm is made up of a round, flat plastic disc and a smaller cone-shaped side called a bell. The diaphragm is the part normally placed on a patient’s skin.
The diaphragm vibrates as a result of sound from the patient’s body parts. The physician can give a diagnosis after hearing the sounds. The diaphragm is normally used to listen to high pitched sounds.
The bell, on the other hand, is used for listening to faint or low-frequency sounds.
As an EMT or paramedic, this is the best stethoscope for you.
While acoustic stethoscopes give out low-volume sounds, their modern versions produce electronically amplified sounds.
The need for electronic scopes was due to the desire to eliminate the traditional steth version that required placing a microphone on the chest piece. This process not only interfered by background noise, but was also hectic and confusing.
Sometimes, a piezoelectric crystal is used with an electronic stethoscope to hear sounds. This crystal is often positioned at the head of the metal shaft. The Welch-Allen Meditron is a good example of a stethoscope that uses this method.
There are also electromagnetic diaphragms that are excellent option for use with any scope. The diaphragms have an inner conductive surface, which provide the same response to sound waves as acoustic stethoscopes. Moreover, the sounds produced as amplified.
Electronic steths can be attached to recording gadgets. This makes them perfect for critical intensive care units as opposed to EMT units.
You don’t need to purchase an electronic scopes unless you have the budget for them.
The fetal stethoscope was invented by Adolphe Pinard, a French obstetrician. This is why you may find some people referring to the scope as Pinard’s stethoscope.
The fetal stethoscope is trumpet-shaped. The trumpet shaped area is the part that is normally placed on the mother’s womb.
Fetal stethoscopes are excellent for the office of an OBGY.
This electronic gadget detects and transmits ultrasound waves detected in interior organs like the heart. The stethoscopes allow you to hear even the most subtle movements that are difficult to hear through an ordinary stethoscope.
Although it is challenging to Doppler stethoscopes in an ambulance, they make excellent scopes for operating and emergency rooms. Doppler and classic auscultations are used concurrently in determining the health of a patient.
The cardiology stethoscope is uniquely designed for cardiologists who work in a calmer environment. The Littmann Cardiology III, for example, is a fine high end cardiology stethoscope that every cardiologist should own.
The pediatric stethoscope has a diaphragm on one side and a bell on the other. This enhances its sound quality.
As an EMT, you need an excellent pediatric stethoscope. Prior to placing an airway adjunct, you need to hear the lung sounds of your pediatric patient.
Although you have an option of purchasing a dedicated pediatric stethoscope and walking with in in a small pediatric bag, it is cheaper to purchase one stethoscope that has pediatric capabilities.
Which is the Best Stethoscope for EMTs?
There are various EMT stethoscope models you can go for. These include:
- Dual-head and single tube
- Single-head and single tube
- Multifunction head
- Dual-head and dual tube (Rapport-Sprague)
The application and prices of these scopes also vary. As an EMT, you should have a personal stethoscope because:
- You will avoid ear wax build up from another medics’ ears
- Since your scope is personal, you will know it inside out
- You will take good care of our stethoscope
- You will always know where your scope is
EMTs provide life-saving care to patients. This does not require a high-tech steth like a Doppler or an electronic stethoscope.
In fact, if you buy one of the high-end steths you will need to watch it carefully as it will be more prone to theft. For example, if you are on shift and one of the patients gets a cardiac arrest, or a busy shift in the ER makes you forget your stethoscope, you are likely to lose it.
Since all you need is a stethoscope that allows you to perform your job excellently, a single tube/single head or a single-tube/dual-head will be perfect. A double-sided or dual-headed steth will be excellent for emergency situations, which are often noisy that listening to lung noises or hearing a heartbeat can be challenging.
However, new EMTs often find double-sided stethoscopes difficult to use. For these EMTs, until they thoroughly train and get used to the scopes, it will be best for them to go with single sided stethoscopes.
Another important consideration to make while selecting a stethoscope is the material used to make the lumens or the tubes. Choose stethoscopes whose tubes are latex-free. This is because some patients are latex sensitive and may get allergies if you have a steth whose tubes are made of latex.
Other things to consider include the weight, sound acoustics, and length of the stethoscope.
The Littmann brand of stethoscope is one of the best brands in the market. Other quality stethoscopes you go with are from Welch Allyn, Ultrascope, and MDF.
Do your research well and check various stethoscope reviews before settling on a model or brand to buy.
Using a Stethoscope to Assess Lung Sounds
The pulse, respiratory sounds and pressure are often termed the “Big three” vital signs. These are the primary signs normally checked during any health examination. The checks give clues to what is happening in your body. Of course, other signs like EKGs, ETCO2 , and glucose check may also be performed.
Lung sounds can provide clues on:
- Fluid in the lungs
- Partial obstructions
- Airway constriction
- Stridor or airway closing
- Tube Placement confirmation
It is usually hard to check patients’ lungs without making them uncomfortable.
Watch the video below for more information on using an EMT stethoscope:
Learning how to listen properly and differentiate lung sounds from other sounds will greatly enhance care you will give your patient. There are critical patients whose lung sounds can be either extremely rapid or overly shallow. These sounds can be challenging to hear.
There are also other challenges you will come across while listening to lung sounds. For example, when your patient is wheezing, is it inspiratory or expiratory? Also, are the sounds rhonchi or rales?
These questions or challenges can be answered when you have an excellent stethoscope.
Blood Pressure Assessment
A common mistake many EMTs make is using the stethoscope’s head to find the pulse point. If you do this while in a busy or noisy environment, you will be unable to locate the strongest pulse point.
The best way of finding the pulse is by putting your fingers inside a patient’s elbow and using it to palpate the pulse until you find the strongest point. You should do this while using your scope to listen.
AVOID applying pressure on the stethoscope’s head on your patient’s skin while auscultating blood pressure.
Some manufacturers that even layers of clothing will not deter their stethoscopes from working. Don’t pay attention to this claim. Put the stethoscope directly on the patient’s skin, especially if you are auscultating the chest.
The reason why the stethoscope’s head should be on the patient’s skin is obvious. When you put the steth on the patient’s clothes, the bell or diaphragm will pick up other noises, which you might confuse with the noises coming from the chest. Thus, it will be hard to make a diagnosis.
Clothes also make it harder to listen to subtle sounds like crackles, rhonchi, friction rubs and rales. Always put the steth on the patients’ skin to have a more accurate listen.
There are cases where the patient’s body or chest will be contaminated or bloody. When you have such a situation, protect the head of the steth by placing in inside an assessment glove. After this, you can place it on the patients’ skin. Disinfect your scope after the examination.
The Germy Scope
Stethoscopes, especially those used by EMTs, can be so filthy especially after a 24 hour period of use. A research done by one emergency room revealed that 33% of steths can be used in culturing MRSA.
Use a disinfectant or antimicrobial wipes when cleaning your stethoscope, and especially the back of the rig.
What to Look for in an EMT Stethoscope
The illusion that a quality stethoscope is too expensive is absurd. You can get a good quality EMT stethoscope without straining your finances. Below are high quality but affordable stethoscopes.
With a sound reduction feature to block background noise during emergency situations, the Littmann Classic II S.E. is one of the best steths for EMTs and paramedics. It is also the most purchased by EMT students and nurses.
This scope is famous for its ear tips that conform perfectly to the ears. The tips enable EMTs to do an excellent job when checking blood pressure and during general physical examination.
EMTs generally work in hectic environment and their shifts last for long hours. Therefore, they need comfortable ear buds that will fit perfectly.
The Littmann Classic II is light in weight. This makes it easy to wear around your neck the whole day. If there is a specific weight that you want, check out this specific lightweight design.
The Littmann Master Classic II has excellent acoustic capabilities. The model has higher acoustics than the Classic II SE. As such, it is more expensive. At the moment, the stethoscope goes for .
If you are particular about the steth you want, this Cardiology III stethoscope will be worth your time. It not only has amazing crisp clear acoustics, but the design craftsmanship is also inspiring.
If you are still undecided about the best stethoscope to buy, check our comprehensive stethoscope reviews for paramedics and EMT doctors.