The Different Types Of Stethoscopes – Pick Out The Best One For Your Needs!

what is a stethoscope

Everybody has a basic idea of what a stethoscope is. We’ve all been on the cold, metal end of one, and the hardest working among us have managed to make it to the opposite side.

However, even medical students may struggle to answer the question “what is a stethoscope?” "what are the different types of stethoscopes?" 

This is because while we all know what ​it does, most of us don’t know how it does it. We are unfamiliar with the different ​types of stethoscopes or the brands which manufacture them.

Here, we are going to look at​ them in detail and cover some of the most popular stethoscope ​types in an attempt to put you on track to finding the​ best one which is right for you.

What Is A Stethoscope?

A stethoscope is a medical instrument (obviously) and is perhaps the most commonly used medical tool in the world. It allows the doctor, nurse, or other medical professional to listen to the heart of the subject, making it possible to diagnose – or rule out – certain diseases.

​Most stethoscopes follow a simple chest piece/tubing/eartips design, though some electrical ​​types operate by connecting headphones directly to the chest piece.

Types Of Stethoscopes

Did you understand that? Good. Now let’s move on to the different kinds of stethoscopes available in 2018.

Single Head Stethoscope

MDF Pulse Time

Okay, this seems like a good one to start off with. The single head stethoscope is pretty straight forward and allows the wearer to tune in to a wide range of frequencies. An adjustable diaphragm makes it possible to check in on not just the heart, but the lungs and stomach also.

Single head ​​types are generally preferred by cardiologist and those who frequently deal with cardiovascular diseases as the tubing system provides clear and detailed auscultation.

Dual-Head Stethoscope

EMI Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

If you’re a GP and in the market for a stethoscope, dual-head​ ​​types are the way to go. Dual-head ​​types are generally a great deal more versatile than their single headed cousins as they feature both a bell and a diaphragm, making it possible to work with patients of all ages.

Some dual-head stethoscopes don’t include a bell but instead come equipped with two different sizes of diaphragm. Some doctors prefer this as the large diaphragm makes it possible to listen to a number of organs and get a basic idea of how everything is working, while the smaller diaphragm is perfect for zoning in on sounds and listening more attentively.

Bell models do have their advantages, however, as they can pick up on low-frequency sounds, making it possible to detect murmurs which may go undetected by a diaphragm of any size.

Electronic Stethoscope

Littmann 3200BK27

The future is now, but according to some doctors it is entirely unnecessary.

While it is true that electronic stethoscopes aren’t absolutely essential, many offer a number of features which simply can’t be found on ​more traditional, non-electronic ​types. For example, the Littmann 3200BK27, one of the most popular electronic ​​types, makes it possible to record the sound of your patient’s heartbeat, which allows you to examine it in greater detail when time permits. This gives you a greater chance of discovering a defect, if there is indeed one to be found. Check out our review on the most reliable and overall best stethoscopes for an EMT.

The 3200BK27 also offers 24X sound amplification, making it possible to listen to your patient’s heartbeat even when they are fully clothed. This is oddly reminiscent of the story of the first stethoscope, which was invented so doctors would no longer have to put their head to female patients’ chests.

Yes, electronic ​​types aren’t a must-have tool for success in medicine, but they do help you do a more comprehensive job. That being said, you should probably master traditional ​​types before you move onto an electronic model.

What About Triple Head Stethoscopes, I Heard They Were A Thing?

Welch Allyn 5079-321 Harvey DLX

For a long time, the triple head stethoscope existed only in legend, sort of like the Triple Big Mac. However, triple head ​​types have not only been produced, but made widely available by the acclaimed medical brand Welch Allyn.

The folks at Welch Allyn insist their triple headed stethoscopes provide the greatest degree of clarity possible, picking up on the slightest irregularity inside your patient’s body. However, it’s hard to see why a triple head stethoscope could do anything a good dual-head stethoscope or electronic stethoscope couldn’t. Furthermore, triple head ​​types look pretty intimidating and sort of resemble a mace from medieval times, which will no doubt quicken you’re patient’s heartbeat.


Yep, they are a complicated business, and choosing the right ​types for you can be pretty difficult. However, now that we have examined a couple of the different kinds of the best stethoscopes available, your options should have significantly decreased.

If you have to, reread the article and decide if you need a single head, dual-head, electronic, or triple head model. From there, dive into the world of your chosen ​types of stethoscope until you find a specific model which is visually and economically pleasing to you. But remember, if you choose ​the electronic or triple head types, you should be prepared to drop some serious cash.


Last updated on May 28th, 2020