A stethoscope is the most crucial piece of equipment for any medical specialist. It is required to hear different sounds and start diagnosing them. While specialists know its uses and techniques, newbies in the medical profession may find it quite challenging.
Hence, for medical students and others, we bring the instructions on how to hold a stethoscope correctly. The process starts by locating and securing the earpiece, holding the bell part accurately, and creating a snug fit.
We will also discuss the types of stethoscopes you can get. Lastly, we will suggest common mistakes while using the stethoscope. So, let’s get on with us in this journey of appropriately holding this essential medical equipment.
Types of Stethoscopes Explained
The holding technique for a stethoscope depends on its type. Hence, it is crucial to identify the type of stethoscope you’re dealing with. The most common types are:
- Cardiology stethoscopes
Each of these stethoscopes has its unique design. It influences how they should be held.
The single-tube or single-lumen stethoscope is the most common type medical professionals use. It is lightweight, with a single tube and a Y-shaped binaural piece. The binaural piece connects to an earpiece. You should hold it by placing the fingers of your dominant hand around the chest piece. Also, you must wrap your other hand around the tube for stability.
The double-tube variety has two tubes. It extends from the chest piece to two separate earpieces for each ear. The double-tube or dual-head stethoscope is heavier than its single-tube counterpart. You should hold it by cradling one arm in the hand. You don’t need to squeeze the stethoscope too tightly. Finally, it would help if you used your other hand as a stabilizer over top of both tubes.
The last type, cardiology stethoscopes, are highly advanced pieces of equipment. It has three tubes connecting to a Y-shaped binaural joined by a headpiece. The headpiece goes over your head. For this one, you’ll need both hands. First, place your dominant hand below the chest piece. Afterward, cradle it between two fingers and thumb. Do this while using your other arm as support to steady it in place.
How To Hold A Stethoscope Correctly
Holding your stethoscope correctly is key to hearing the sound variations of a patient. You must ensure you get the clearest sound and the best experience with each patient. So, besides the ear tips, you must hold the stethoscope appropriately.
Here are some tips for holding your stethoscope properly:
Step 1: Ensure a secure fit
Ensure the ear pieces are fitted comfortably and securely in both ears. You can follow our instructions to place the ear tips snuggly for this. Once you find a snug fit for the ear tips of the stethoscope, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Place and Secure the Ear tips
Placing and securing the stethoscope ear tips is essential to ensure effective auscultation. Hold the ear tips between your thumb and middle finger to place them. After that, you should place each ear tip over the corresponding ear.
For comfort and effectiveness, it’s important to secure the ear tips in your ear. To do this:
- Locate the microphone of your stethoscope. After that, carefully slide it upward so it sits just outside your ear canal.
- This placement should create a gentle seal between the stethoscope’s flexible tubing and your ear.
- Press gently inward on both sides of your head to create a snug fit. The fitting should cause discomfort even after extended use. So, you should try moving it to see if the ear tips fit into your ear accurately.
In addition to a secure fit, ensure no gaps or other deficiencies in the seal. You must ensure the sound can travel properly from the patient to your ear without any loss.
Step 3: Gripping the tube
You must grip the tubing firmly but not too tightly. You must ensure a good grip without making it so tight. If you hold the equipment tightly, it loses sensitivity. It is even true for the best stethoscope you use. When it happens, you will fail to get accurate resonance, resulting in an inaccurate diagnosis.
Also, ensure the stethoscope has proper flexibility. It lets you move the stethoscope comfortably to get sounds from different body parts of your patient.
Step 4: Holding the bell part
The bell part sits right below the chest piece of your stethoscope. You should hold the bell part at a ninety-degree angle against the patient’s skin. While holding the stethoscope bell part, apply light pressure.
Sometimes, you may use a diaphragm instead of the bell part of the stethoscope. If using a diaphragm, press slightly harder than the bell part of the stethoscope. The diaphragm needs more pressure than the bell to capture sounds effectively. Hence, be aware of the difference in applying pressure for these two variations.
As you follow these steps to hold the stethoscope, it ensures you receive optimal sounds. It helps in making a positive impression on each of your patients. Also, it is critical to identify the patient’s problem properly.
Considerations for Angled/Additional Bells
Remember several considerations to get the most accurate readings when holding a stethoscope. First, consider the angle at which you hold the bell. It should be angled slightly towards you, not away. It ensures that you can hear the sounds accurately heard. No doubt, accurate sound hearing is crucial for interpreting it.
Moreover, many stethoscopes may have additional bells on them. If your stethoscope has two or more bells, ensure to switch between the different bells. It is essential to maintain the accuracy and clarity of sound. Also, switch between the bells multiple times to find any difference in the sound. It further improves accuracy.
This is because some sounds may be too faint or loud for one of the bells. Yet, the sound might be just right for the other! So, when your stethoscope has multiple bells, practice exercising them one after another. It helps you to gain familiarity with their sensitivity levels.
Many manufacturers also guide how to hold their stethoscopes for optimal use. You should carefully read through the instruction manual. As you follow their guidelines, it will be genuinely helpful in getting accurate readings from your device.
Tips for Adjusting Stethoscopes to Different Patients
If you’re a professional who uses a stethoscope frequently, you know one size does not fit all. However, newbies in the medical profession may be unaware of it. Indeed, every patient’s body is different, so you must adjust the stethoscope accordingly.
Adjusting your stethoscope can differentiate between a successful diagnosis and an inaccurate one. So, you should follow these suggestions.
The pressure you apply when using the stethoscope affects what you hear. For larger patients, it can help to press the chest piece more firmly against the skin. It ensures that you receive better sound quality.
On the other hand, for more delicate patients, like children or the elderly, a lighter touch may be necessary. So, assess your patient’s condition and apply the pressure on the stethoscope accordingly. It improves the diagnosis accuracy.
The positioning of the stethoscope is essential for both sound quality and comfort for the patient. So, ensure the chest piece is positioned correctly over where needed. If you move the chest piece too much, it causes disruption.
Sadly, the disruption will eliminate or change any sound. It reduces the chance of the stethoscope picking up variable sounds. Ultimately, it results in inaccurate diagnosis.
Choosing the right earpieces
It may seem like such a small detail but listen closely. The right earpieces can make all the difference in listening accuracy. It also controls the comfort levels while using a stethoscope.
It would help if you chose silicone earpieces. The silicone creates an effective seal in your ears. As a result, they help to block out ambient noise. Therefore, it lets you concentrate on what’s coming through your ears.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Making mistakes when handling a stethoscope is easy. Thus, being aware of common errors is key for professional newcomers.
Using too much pressure:
One common mistake is using too much pressure on the stethoscope’s chest piece. When you apply much pressure, it restricts the sound of your patient’s heart and lungs. Naturally, it makes it more difficult to diagnose.
To prevent this, lighten up on the pressure when using your stethoscope.
Failing to clean between uses:
Another mistake is failing to clean and sanitize your stethoscope between patients. It can lead to cross-contamination. Additionally, it can spread germs and bacteria from one patient to another.
Hence, use an alcohol swab or other sanitizer each time. It keeps your favorite stethoscope in perfect condition.
Improper Listening Technique
Finally, many physicians apply an improper listening technique. It can make it harder to hear what’s happening in your patient’s lungs or heart.
You should ensure a proper seal between yourself and the patient. You must stop air escaping for sound transmission to come through as clearly as possible. Plus, adjust the earpieces for maximum comfort. Indeed, this can improve sound quality significantly!
Holding a stethoscope may appear easy, but it’s challenging. Hopefully, our guideline on how to hold a stethoscope helps you with the cause. The key is to secure the ear tips properly and create a sealing between you and the patient. Also, apply appropriate pressure on your patient’s chest to hear the sound as accurately as possible.
We suggest you practice holding and using the stethoscope as much as possible. Eventually, it will help you know the right technique.