The 5 Best Stethoscopes for Nurses of 2021

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Best Stethoscopes for Nurses

Verywell / Sabrina Jiang

For many medical professionals, a stethoscope can be a vital tool to perform their everyday work tasks. Since the tool is a necessity for healthcare workers like nurses, it makes for a wide variety of choices on the market.

Kati Kleber, an Illinois-based critical-care nurse and nurse educator, tells Verywell Health one’s patient population is important to consider when selecting the right stethoscope. She also recommends considering durability and sound quality when selecting the optimal stethoscope. 

These scopes aren’t cheap, but using them every day means they need to be long-lasting, which can come with a heftier price tag. Megan Meyer, an ICU nurse in Colorado, tells Verywell Health that nurses should be wary of cheaper stethoscopes because of the thinner tubing used. “If you get something that is very sturdy and durable that’s not very bendable material, it makes it so much easier to accurately hear any cardiac sounds or pulmonary sounds,” she says. 

After finding the best stethoscope that works for you, with the help of our guide, both Meyer and Kleber recommended engraving your name on the tool to avoid any mix-ups when working with other medical professionals. 

Here are the best stethoscopes on the market.

Our Top Picks
The pediatric option offers the perfect distraction for kiddos with its snap-on animal faces while providing solid sound quality.
Ideal for nurses in training who are learning the sounds of the body, this option features a reliable, acoustic performance.
ADC designed the stethoscope with surgical stainless steel to not only provide clear sound during usage but also offer durability.
Best Carrying Case for Traveling Nurses:
Caseling Hard Case at Amazon
Besides providing enough room for a stethoscope, the case is also shockproof and made with durable materials to protect your tool.
Both stylish and functional, its utility isn't sacrificed due to its dual-head chestpiece that picks up a variety of frequencies.

Best for Pediatric Nurses: ADC Adscope 618 Pediatric Stethoscope

Pros
  • Includes snap-on animal faces

  • High-quality sound

  • Ideal for patients 10 and under

Cons
  • Not as durable as other options

Convincing a child to hold still long enough for a nurse to take their vitals is not always easy, especially if they are afraid of the doctor. But this pediatric stethoscope offers the perfect distraction for little ones with interchangeable, snap-on animal faces. Nurses say these animals soothe fussier patients so they can take their vitals. 

Besides offering a fun distraction, the stethoscope also provides great sound quality to help with hearing all the necessary sounds and rhythms when accessing a patient. It is recommended to use this stethoscope on patients 10 years or younger for best results. 

Sound Type: Acoustic | Size: 30 inches | Additional Accessories: 2 additional pairs of Adsoft Plus eartips, 7 animal face snap-ons, accessory storage pouch, scope ID tag

Best for Nursing Students: 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope

Pros
  • High-quality sound

  • Affordable

  • Tunable diaphragm

Cons
  • Doesn't come with extra ear tips

Nursing school is expensive as it is, which can make it hard to drop more money on a tool like a stethoscope. But Meyer says that a high-quality stethoscope is important because it helps teach nursing students learn all the new sounds of the body. “When you’re trying to learn and listen to sounds you’ve never heard before with a poor-quality stethoscope, you’re not going to truly know what the sound is and learn it,” she says. 

Meyer recommends purchasing a more inexpensive Littmann stethoscope like its Lightweight II S.E. The stethoscope is one of the more affordable from the top brands and acts as a solid entry-level option. Its tunable diaphragm, dual-sided chestpiece, and reliable acoustic performance make it easy to make blood pressure and physical assessments for adults.

Sound Type: Acoustic | Size: 28 inches | Additional Accessories: N/A

Best for Cardiology: ADC Adscope 600 Platinum Series Cardiology Stethoscope

Pros
  • Made from surgical stainless steel

  • High-quality sound

  • Includes extra ear tips

  • Lifetime warranty

Cons
  • Heavier than other options

This high-performance cardiology headset provides optimal sound quality through a traditional one-sided chestpiece. ADC designed the stethoscope with surgical stainless steel to not only provide clear sound to nurses when using but also offer durability for daily use. 

The stethoscope also offers an alternate frequency design (AFD) so the user can hear both high and low frequencies when using it on patients. Nurses say the stethoscope is incredible for auscultation, as it picks up all the sounds and frequencies necessary when examining a patient. 

Sound Type: Acoustic | Size: 27 inches | Additional Accessories: 2 additional pairs of Adsoft Plus eartips, accessory storage case, scope ID tag

Best Carrying Case for Traveling Nurses: Caseling Hard Case

Pros
  • Waterproof and shockproof

  • Includes a mesh pocket to hold accessories

  • Wrist strap for easy carrying

Cons
  • No banding to hold items in place

So you’ve found the right stethoscope. Now it's about making sure you protect the tool and can seamlessly transport it when on the road, especially if you’re a traveling nurse. The Caseling Hard Case is designed to fit a stethoscope plus other accessories including extra ear pieces. 

Besides providing enough room for any stethoscope, the case is also semi-waterproof, shockproof, and made with durable material to protect your tool in any circumstance. Included inside is a mesh pocket and penlight holder to keep you organized when on the go. 

Sound Type: Acoustic | Size: 10 inches | Additional Accessories: Travel bag

Most Stylish: MDF MD One Stainless Steel Stethoscope in Rose Gold

Pros
  • Adjustable frequency

  • Lifetime warranty

  • Comes in various colors

Cons
  • Can tarnish

Function is obviously the most important factor to consider when purchasing a stethoscope, but that doesn’t mean you also have to sacrifice fashion. The MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope is not only stylish but also incredibly functional for any workday task. It comes in a sleek rose gold design with white tubing, making for a fun tool to wear around your neck during the workday.

Besides looking nice, the scope comes with a dual-head chestpiece to pick up a variety of frequencies. The stethoscope also offers an adjustable frequency design (AFD) to enhance the sound quality. Nurses rave about the quality of the stethoscope and its unique design.

Sound Type: Acoustic | Size: 32.8 inches| Additional Accessories: Eartip adaptors

Final Verdict

If you want a stylish option that will still perform most of the functions you need as a nurse, we recommend the MDF Rose Gold MD One Stethoscope (view at Amazon).

What to Look for in a Stethoscope

Thickness

The thickness of the tubing is important because it helps block out other noises when you’re listening to your patient. “[Tubing] can’t be incredibly thin because you’ll be getting a lot of frequency back from the environment,” Meyer says. A quality stethoscope, she says, should be thicker and heavier to wear around the neck. She recommends purchasing a stethoscope with “very sturdy” and “durable” tubing that is not bendable. Paying attention to the thickness of the tubing will help you accurately hear bodily sounds from patients. 

Size

When thinking about the size of a stethoscope, there are a few measurements to take into consideration. First of all, you want to pay attention to the chest piece because that part is what will be picking up the sounds from your patient population. Pediatric patients will require a smaller chest piece compared to the adult population. Some stethoscopes come with a chest piece with bells on each end, allowing for you to cater to a larger patient population.

Another size to consider is the foam earpieces. These earpieces work to block out background noises while you’re listening to your patient, so you want to make sure they fit right. “You want good earpieces that fit well, because that makes a major difference in the sound,” Kleber says. Quality earpieces should be made with soft and pliable rubber tubing that can mold to your ear canal.

Sound Quality

It should come as no surprise that sound quality is an important consideration to take into account when purchasing a stethoscope. Nurses and medical professionals generally invest in more expensive stethoscopes that have a higher sound quality. “Sound quality makes a difference on a busy unit because there are a lot of background noises,” Kleber says. To select the best option for you, try a variety of stethoscopes and pay attention to what sounds the device is able to amplify. Reviews on stethoscopes by other medical professionals can also help you better determine sound quality before purchasing.

Durability

Medical professionals and nurses often wear the stethoscope around their neck for easy access, especially given how much they use the device during a shift. With that, durability is imperative so you can use your device for years on the job without needing to replace it. This durability comes with the type of materials used and the thickness (see above) of the tubing on your scope. Stethoscopes are primarily made out of aluminium and rubber, so pay attention to the material description when making your purchase. Lower-quality materials can impact weight, acoustics, and how it wears around your neck. 

Fit for Profession

A cardiology nurse may need different features in a stethoscope than a pediatric nurse or an ER nurse. Electronic stethoscopes are also available on the market to pick up multiple frequencies and sounds. Overall, all of these devices are created to aid a medical professional, so taking your profession into account is important when selecting the best scope for you. 

If you’re a cardiologist, you might want a stethoscope with “two different bells on the end to measure the different pitches,” Meyer says. A pediatric nurse, in comparison, might want a stethoscope appealing for children to look at and with a smaller chest piece. Then ER nurses might require high-quality earpieces and tubing to help block out background noise in their busy work environment. Think about what you’re doing when using a stethoscope to determine the optimal fit for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does a stethoscope work?

    For many medical professionals, the stethoscope can be a vital tool to perform their everyday work tasks. The acoustic medical device is used for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of the body. Besides picking up heart rhythms, the stethoscope also detects sounds from the lungs, intestinal movement, and blood flow through the arteries and veins. 

    The acoustic stethoscope works by transmitting sound waves from the chest piece to the earpieces. Sound waves from bodily functions like a heartbeat or air passing through the lungs with the chest piece in the stethoscope. Then the tubing on the device is used to direct the sound waves up to the earpiece. This is the traditional form a stethoscope takes, but some companies have further advanced the device by creating “dual frequency” or “tunable” diaphragms. These advances allow for the device to pick up a variety of high and low frequencies. 

    Electronic stethoscopes can amplify sound waves from bodily noises, making it easier to decipher just what’s going on in a patient’s body. An electronic stethoscope takes physical vibrations of sounds and then translates them into an electronic signal. Some electronic stethoscopes also have the capability to lower background noise, which can be a game-changing advancement for medical professionals who work in a busy environment.

  • How do you clean a stethoscope?

    Medical professionals come across a wide variety of patients with all sorts of ailments during their work day, so it’s important the stethoscope is easy to clean and cleaned frequently. For cleaning, use a disinfectant wipe with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution. It’s not recommended to use hand sanitizer or other disinfectant solution. Also, do not immerse your stethoscope in a cleaning solution, as it could damage the device. These devices should last for years, but warranty and repair options are usually available.  

  • How long does a stethoscope last?

    A stethoscope can be an investment for medical professionals, so many use the device for several years before replacing parts or all of the machine. Stethoscope manufacturers recommend for the device to be replaced about every two years, but medical professionals remain wary about this advice. For optimal use, people should be on the lookout for signs the device has worn down through extended use. The earpieces, for example, are often the part of the stethoscope that requires replacement the quickest. Most stethoscopes come with replacement earpieces, but otherwise someone can purchase that part without having to replace the entire device. The tubing is another important indicator that can determine if a device needs to be replaced or not. Stethoscopes can be used as long as they remain functional. But once the ability to hear bodily noises declines, then it’s time to replace the device. `

  • Are more expensive stethoscopes better quality?

    Price doesn’t always equate quality when comparing products on the market. But the price tag can indicate that better quality materials were used in creating parts of a stethoscope, such as the tubing. Meyer says she finds cheaper stethoscopes to be made with thinner material, specifically in the tubing. This can impact the sound quality of the device and make it more different for a medical professional to identify the different sounds. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has to purchase an expensive stethoscope to get the full benefits of the device, though. Product reviews can be a helpful indicator on the quality of the device compared to the price.

What the Experts Say

“If you get [a stethoscope] that is very sturdy and durable that’s not very bendable material, it makes it so much easier to accurately hear any cardiac sounds or pulmonary sounds."—Megan Meyer, Colorado-based ICU nurse

Why Trust Verywell Health?

As a seasoned health writer, Danielle Zoellner knows the importance of finding just the right product to fit your medical needs. Throughout her career, Danielle has interviewed a variety of experts in the medical and health fields while reviewing dozens of products. Her experience and knowledge in the field work together to help readers like yourself find the best products for your daily life.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Nowak LJ, Nowak KM. Sound differences between electronic and acoustic stethoscopesBiomed Eng Online. 2018;17(1):104. doi:10.1186/s12938-018-0540-2