Best Stethoscopes for Nurses: Our Top Favorites

By Rita Davison / July 23, 2017

Without doubt, a stethoscope is a must-have instrument for nurses and other health professionals. Choosing the best stethoscope shouldn’t be an insurmountable hurdle. In fact, a nurse’s decision or opinion is perpetually perlustrated by a doctor, and buying an expensive or high-quality stethoscope is absolutely unnecessary. Nonetheless, that is not to say you shouldn’t purchase one, especially if you can meet the price tag.

Stethoscopes comes in different designs, materials and sizes. And as a professional nurse or nursing students, you can be carried away by the various options available on the market.

In this post, we’ve taken the burden off your shoulders by doing research and shortlisting some of the best stethoscopes for nurses that not only gets the job done but are also budget-friendly. Review the list and choose a stethoscope that best meets your needs.

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Stethoscope Buying Guide

Stethoscopes are as essential as ever. Despite the technological advances that have been embraced in the medical and healthcare field, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals still consider stethoscopes a compulsory equipment.

Much as we recognize its importance, choosing and buying a stethoscope has become a stumbling block to some nurses. We understand this might be because of the various brands and sizes that’s available on the market plus you have to consider your budget and the performance of the device you want to buy.

After reviewing our recommendation for the best stethoscope for nurses, you probably want to know the criteria we used in choosing these stethoscopes

Well, several factors must play a part into any stethoscope purchase.

But, first, let’s remind ourselves the different types of stethoscopes available on the market. Keep in mind, given your preferences and career, and to narrow down your stethoscope choices, you have to be conversant with and understand the different types of scopes and how they perform.

Types of Stethoscopes

To provide specialized care, nurses require a special stethoscope. Different types of stethoscopes have been machined to perform various functions. Here’s a list of the different types of stethoscopes and their uses.

Acoustic

One of the widely used stethoscopes is acoustic. It operates by using a chestpiece with hollow tubes that rely on some alternative mechanism to transmit sound to the listener’s ears. The air inside the hollow tubes solely acts as the medium of transmission.

The chestpiece can either be two sided or single sided and has a diaphragm and a bell that transmits high-frequency sound and low-frequency sound respectively.

Other acoustic stethoscopes are designed with a tunable diaphragm that uses pressure variances to amplify sound. The only downside of using this type of scope is its extremely low sound level that’s transmitted.

Electronic

Also known as stethophone, this type of a scope uses electronic transducers to amplify body sounds.

The transducers amplify and enable the user to hear clear and louder sounds by converting sound waves of the body to electrical signals.

The electronic stethoscope is a high-quality and high-performance device than its acoustic counterparts because there is no standardized mechanism – sound problem experienced by acoustic users – low volume – is not an issue when you use this device.

Since electronic stethoscopes are incredibly versatile, they’re suited for specific tasks in certain areas of healthcare. You should know that

Electronic Stethoscopes come in two categories: Digitizing and Amplifying.

Pediatric/Fetal

Pediatric/fetal stethoscopes, also known as fetoscopes are designed pretty much the same way as acoustic and electronic scopes. The difference is in size.

Shaped like a trumpet, it contains a smaller diaphragm and bell which allow the user to listen to much softer sounds of the fetus’ heart.

While other acoustic stethoscopes can be used for assessing infants and toddlers, it is much more safe and convenient to use the fetoscope.

Recording

A recording stethoscope is another special type of electronic scopes. The difference is that it’s used by connecting a direct audio output to a recording device like a laptop or MP3 recorder. The advantage of using this type of stethoscope is that users can listen and evaluate previously recorded auscultation through the stethoscope’s headphones. This is particularly important if you want to do thorough research and evaluate a patient’s condition and conduct comprehensive diagnosis and assessment.

Doppler

A doppler is a rare version of the electronic stethoscope. It’s used to measure the Doppler effect of ultrasound waves reflected from organs within the body.

It’s able to detect motion by the change in frequency owing to the Doppler effect of the reflected waves.

This type of scope is suited to reading sound of moving body parts like the beating heart.

It’s commonly used to monitor babies in the womb with weak heartbeats.

Now that you know the different types of stethoscopes and how they work, let’s jump straight into how you can choose the best stethoscope for your nursing needs.

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How To Choose The Best Stethoscope For Nurses

Stethoscopes are not built the same. While they’re apparently made up of different materials, some are also designed for specific purpose.

Now that you know the different types of stethoscopes and their intended uses, it’s time to make an informed decision.

We have compiled some of the factors you must consider when buying a stethoscope.

Intended Use

Choosing the best stethoscope depends, to a great extent, on its intended purpose. You need to ask yourself if your preferred stethoscope corresponds with its use.

Will you be examining children or adults? Are you working in the cardiovascular department or position where excellent sound quality and extreme sensitivity are vital? Or do you need a stethoscope for some basic blood pressure reading and infrequent examination?

If you know the primary use of your stethoscope, you’re step ahead and all that remains is narrowing down your search to a stethoscope that will offer the result you desire.

Remember, if you’re a basic healthcare provider, you don’t have to run around searching for high-performance or expensive models. You probably want something that’s within your budget and offers the results you’ll appreciate.

Also, it doesn’t do any harm if you can meet some of the high-end stethoscope’s price tags. After all, why not go for the best if you have the funds?

On the other hand, if you’re working in some of the sensitive departments and your examination depends on the result provided by your stethoscope, then it’s wise to go for something that exactly offers that. Buying some mediocre options will do more harm than good.

Chest-piece

The chestpiece can either be two sided or single sided. Two sided diaphragms chestpieces are most likely to be involved with small diaphragms hence are suited for pediatricians or those who take care of small children.

Other chestpieces have a diaphragm and a bell that transmit high-frequency sound and low-frequency sound respectively. Some might have a tunable diaphragm that uses pressure variances to amplify sound. So, if you’d like to be in control of the sound transmitted when listening to your patient’s body sounds, you better go for a stethoscope with a tunable diaphragm.

It’s good to note that most common tunable chespieces are also double-sided and teardrop-shaped. This is an added advantage because you can position the chestpieces around blood pressure cuffs as well as listen to low and high-frequency sounds without having to turn them over. You cannot be able to reposition your chestpiece using the single-sided models, which might be a good or bad thing depending on what you prefer.

Tubing style and length

Tubes can be single-lined or double-lined. While the type of tube that offers the best results is still a controversial issue among medical practitioners, a good number have agreed that double wall tubing are thicker and transmit much excellent sound than single wall tubing.

Other points to consider about tubing is length and color.

Tubing comes in sizes 22 and 28 inches. Longer sizes are considered the best because they are easy to drape around the neck. They also keep the caregiver a distance from the patient.

If you prefer a particular color, you should go for that. Stethoscopes come in a variety of colors, and you’ll be able to choose one that catches your eye.

One more thing, always be cautious of the material used. Latex-free materials are the best because they’re safe and comfortable to use. Some patients are allergic to latex so it wise to go for latex-free materials.

Eartip design

The design of your stethoscope’s eartip will influence how you listen and read you patient’s body sound. Soft-sealing silicone eartips are comfortable on the ears, and you’ll also be able to hear the body sounds optimally.

Remember, these devices are designed so you can only use the manufacturer’s eartips. Do your research, ask for other people’s opinions about a particular model before purchase. You don’t want to buy something and end up not using it simply because you feel uncomfortable putting it in your ears.

Budget

Just like any other item, budget plays a major role in the type and quality of stethoscope you buy. If you’re on a tight budget, there’re mid-range options that offer nearly the same results as high-end options. Just know that, there’s always an option for you on the market. However, if you have the money, why not go for the best?

Best Stethoscope For Nurses Review

1. 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope, Black Tube, 28 inch – the best lightweight stethoscope for novice nurses

3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

What more could a novice nurse yearn for than an entry-level stethoscope that ingeniously performs its acoustic obligations, either for taking blood pressure readings or making limited physical assessments of adult patient?

Aside from being a reliable instrument, the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope, Black Tube, 28 inch is imponderous.  In fact, it’s lighter than any other Littmann adult stethoscopes – an additional advantage that could benefit caretakers who like carrying their stethoscopes all throughout the day.

Featuring double-sided and teardrop-shaped chestpieces plus a tunable diaphragm, you can effortlessly position the chestpieces around blood pressure cuffs as well as listen to low and high-frequency sounds without having to turn them over.

In as much as this is one of the reliable stethoscopes that’s perfect for beginning and seasoned nurses, it doesn’t’ produce the desired sound effects compared to other 3M Littmann Lightweight models. As it happens, it may be difficult to hear a patient’s heart and breathe sounds even in a perfectly quiet room.

Pros:

  • Performs fairly well in its auscultating obligations.
  • It’s lightweight, so hanging it around your neck or carrying it in your pocket all day long won’t be exhausting.
  • Cheap price – a decent price tag for a decent personal stethoscope.
  • Easy to position around blood pressure cuffs and listen to sound frequencies thanks to the double-sided and teardrop-shaped chestpieces and tunable diaphragm.

Cons:

  • Can’t be used in pediatric department because it’s a standard stethoscope.
  • Might not produce the desired sound effects especially if you’ve used other dandy models.

2. 3M Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope, Black Tube, 28 inch – the best durable mid-range stethoscope

3M Littmann Classic II reviewCheck On Amazon Now

While some form of institutional financial support for nursing students or registered nurses play a role in the quality of stethoscope you can own, all hope isn’t lost if you don’t have such backing.  Certainly because the 3M Littmann Classic II S.E. Stethoscope, Black Tube, 28 inch, 2201 is marked down but still delivers a high level of accuracy and precision.

Available in a variety of colors, including black, pearl pink, orange, burgundy, purple, and Caribbean blue, this sturdy stethoscope provides comfort during checkup both to the patient and nurse thanks to the latex-free tubing and non-chill rim.

If you’re wild about achieving the best acoustic outcomes, this stethoscope features a tunable diaphragm that allows you to focus on either low frequency or high frequency sounds. The dual-sided and stainless steel chestpiece are also worth mentioning because they designedly fit into the ear canals hence you can listen to the body sounds optimally.

Pros:

  • It’s a good buy for a mid-range stethoscope. Even nurses on a budget will it procurable and worthwhile.
  • Performs extremely well thanks to the tunable diaphragm and dual-sided and stainless steel chestpiece.
  • It’s long lasting – it’s made of sturdy materials – it’s one of the most durable stethoscopes on the market.
  • Provides comfort during examination – made up of latex-free tubing and non-chill rim.
  • A variety of colors to choose from.

Cons:

  • The rubber tubing easily picks up stains.
  • While it can be used by pediatric nurses, it might not be the best option.

3. 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope, Black Tube, 27 inch – the highest-performing non-electronic cardiology stethoscope

3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

This is one of the top-of-the-line stethoscopes that would be a perfect fit for nurses working in the cardiology department, or any position where excellent sound quality and extreme sensitivity are mandatory.

Boasting as the only cardiology stethoscope with dual-sided chestpiece, it is suitable for both children and adults.  It also features a dual lumen which helps reduce noise interference that might be noticed when tubes and the external surfaces rub together.

Similar to other cardiology stethoscopes, the 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope, Black Tube, 27 inch also is designed with an adjustable diaphragm which incomparably respond to pressure changes.  This makes it easy to switch from low to high frequency for crisp sound output that offers more accurate assessments. Also, the non-chill bell sleeve is subsumed for optimum user comfort.

Although this stethoscope comes with a hefty price, you’ll indeed appreciate its service.

Pros:

  • Superb quality for the price.
  • Delivers the most excellent acoustic outcomes – even people with hearing problem will find it useful.
  • It’s the only cardiology stethoscope that can be used for both children and adults.
  • Lasts longer. It’s designed to withstand everyday use and can last for several years.
  • Adequate in length and medium in weight – provide a comfortable and secure feel when you hang it around your neck or carry in your pocket.

Cons:

  • Costly and not many people might be willing to buy.

4. 3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope, 27″ tubes – the best designed stethoscope from Littmann

3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

Like other Littmann stethoscopes, the 3M Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope, 27″ tubes is highly regarded because of its ergonomic design, exceptional diagnostic performance and unparalleled acoustic sensitivity.

This device also features a tunable diaphragm technology and single sided chestpiece which lets nursing students and medical professionals easily hear both low and high frequency sounds by simply adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece. The good thing about single sided chestpiece is that you don’t have to reposition or turn them over.

For head size and comfort, you can easily adjust the headset by squeezing together or pulling apart the eartubes. This way, you’ll hear and take your patient’s body reading accurately without any difficulty.

Say goodbye to allergies and discomfort because this device is made up of latex-free materials and non-chill rim.

Pros:

  • Performs excellently in its acoustic obligations.
  • Designed like no other and comes in various colors
  • You don’t have to worry about repositioning or turning over your chestpiece.
  • Provides comfort during examination.

Cons:

  • Slightly expensive for a mid-range cardiology stethoscope – Does not have some of the features of the Cardiology stethoscope
  • Although ergonomic, it’s slightly heavy – if you prefer hanging stethoscopes around your neck or carrying in your pocket, this might not be the best option.

5. 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope – the strongest, durable and high-performance stethoscope.

3M Littmann Master Cardiology StethoscopeCheck On Amazon Now

In this list, the 3M Littmann Master Cardiology Stethoscope is unmatched in strength, durability, and acoustic sensitivity. It tops the list of non-electronic scopes that performs extremely well.

Unlike the 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope, this sturdy scope is equipped with a single sided chestpiece. That means you don’t have to turn over or reposition the chestpiece every time you want to take a reading. Not to mention, by simply adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece, the diaphragm tunable technology allows you to hear different frequency sounds.

Other notable features include an adjustable headset tension for head size and comfort, resilient tubing that retains shape and flexibility, and a latex-free material that is safe and comfortable to both the nurse and patient.

Pros:

  • Long-lasting – its strength and durability is unequaled by any of the Littmann models
  • The best performing Littmann stethoscope for cardiologists.
  • Easy to use as you don’t have to reposition or turn over the chestpiece.
  • Safe and comfortable to use as it’s made of latex-free material.

Cons:

  • Expensive and not many nurses will be willing to spend that much
  • Slightly heavier – hanging it around your neck or carrying in your pocket all day through might be cumbersome.
  • Can only be used for pediatric and neonatal auscultation.

6. ADC ADSCOPE Stainless Stethoscope – The best lightweight and cheapest stethoscope from ADC

ADC ADSCOPE Stainless StethoscopeCheck On Amazon Now

Like Littmann, ADC is one of the companies that ranks high in the production of quality stethoscope.

This device is lightweight, lasts longer and has a remarkable acoustic performance thanks to the precise design and combination of adult size chestpiece and diaphragm that exact tolerances from surgical stainless steel.

For patient’s comfort, this stethoscope features non-chill diaphragm/bell combo not to mention the ergonomic headset and Adsoft Plus silicone eartips that wears easily and ensure you can listen to the body sounds optimally. The extra-large bell is an added advantage as it proficiently reads low frequency sounds.

Available in a variety of colors, this stethoscope comes with an accessory kit with spare diaphragm, extra Adsoft and standard eartips.

Pros:

  • Performs its acoustic obligations excellently.
  • Inexpensive and any nurse can be able to purchase.
  • Lightweight – you can comfortably carry it in your lab pocket or hang it around your neck all day through.
  • Durable thanks to the precisely machined and combined adult size chestpiece and diaphragm that exact tolerances from surgical stainless steel.

Cons:

  • It’s only a good choice for basic purposes. Might not perform very well in other departments.

7. ADC Adscope 615 Platinum Professional Clinician Stethoscope with Tunable AFD Technology – the best alternative to Littmann Lightweight Stethoscopes

ADC Adscope 615 Platinum Professional Clinician Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

This is the second ADC stethoscope in our list. In fact, it’s more popular than the ADC Adscope stainless stethoscope because it comes with an adjustable frequency design. While this is only featured as a one sided chestpiece, it still delivers the same response as the traditional bell and diaphragm.

The chestpiece is also enormous and sculptured in an ovoid manner to enable the zinc alloy plating to show the beauty and the satin finish of this stethoscope.

Added features include a non-chill bell that provides comfort to the patient and perfectly angled binaurals for your comfort.

The ergonomic clinician headset are also comfortable on the ears and wears easily. This is made possible by the Adsoft Plus silicone eartips which also ensures clear and excellent acoustic results.

Pros:

  • Performs great in its acoustic functions.
  • Very much cheap compared to its Littmann counterparts that offer similar results.
  • Lightweight – you can comfortably carry it in your lab pocket or hang it around your neck all day through.
  • Durable thanks to the precisely machined and combined adult size chestpiece and diaphragm that exact tolerances from surgical stainless steel.

Cons:

  • Its use is quite limited to adults only.
  • It might not be the best option for veterinary or cardiology use.

8. Prestige Medical Clinical Lite Stethoscope – the best stethoscope for a tight budget

Prestige Medical Clinical Lite StethoscopeCheck On Amazon Now

The Prestige Medical Clinical Lite Stethoscope is designed for all those nurses and medical practitioners who are on a tight budget and want to buy something on the average.

Or if you’re not good at taking care of your properties and think you might fail to keep it for a reasonable period of time, the Prestige Medical Clinical Lite Stethoscope is a great option.

We included this stethoscope in this list because of two important reasons – it’s cheap and available in various colors.

This stethoscope is extremely lightweight since it’s made from anodized aluminum. Not only that, the Prestige Medical Clinical Lite Stethoscope features a fiberglass diaphragm which provides optimal hear and Korotkoff sound.

A snap-on diaphragm retaining ring and a non-chill bell ring are also included which enhances patients’ comfort and aids in maintenance purposes.

Pros:

  • Super cheap stethoscope
  • Performs decently in its acoustic duties
  • Extremely lightweight because of the anodized aluminum

Cons:

  • Since it’s cheap, it might not perform as you’d expect.

9. Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope – the best high-performance mid-range stethoscope

Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

If you want a high performance stethoscope and not worried about weight or softness of the ear pieces, then Omron Sprague Rappaport might be the best for you. Customers who have used this stethoscope have reported greater acoustic results than some of the intermediate-level Littmann stethoscopes.

As an entry-level stethoscope, it features a small and large diaphragm hence suitable for both children and adults. This is an added advantage because you won’t have to buy any scope if you work in either of the departments.

One of the best features about this stethoscope is the latex-free material that it’s made up of. That means you don’t have to worry about having allergic reactions to latex therefore safe and comfortable.

It also come in multiple sizes.

Pros:

  • Performs very well in its auscultating obligations. In point of fact, customers have acclaimed it performances and reported that it’s much better than some of Littmann’s mid-range stethoscopes.
  • Extremely cheap compared to other brands that offer the same results.
  • Provides comfort during examination thanks to the latex-free material.
  • Can be used for both children and adults

Cons:

  • It’s slightly compared to some of the lightweight models.
  • While it provides excellent acoustic results, the ear pieces might not be as soft and comfortable as you might expect.

10. MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope – Rose Gold Edition – White – stylish and high-performance stethoscope

Being a nurse doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your style or love for fashion. We’ve included this classy stethoscope for those nurses who want something that would match their style – whether it’s your white signature lab coat or rose gold iPhone or Apple Watch.

MDF MD One Stainless Steel Premium Dual Head Stethoscope reviewCheck On Amazon Now

Apart from attractiveness and style, this scope does exactly what you’ll need it to do with excellent precision. It features a handcrafted stainless steel dual-head chestpiece that is explicitly designed for high performance and durability.

A green indicator dot is also involved in the full-rotation acoustic valve stem therefore allowing user to easily identify the active sound channel and seals in sound. An ultrasensitive diaphragm sealed with a non-chill retaining ring are fitted with the chestpiece to provide a secure acoustic transmission.

For excellent sound frequencies, and for patient’s comfort, this device is comes with an extra-large bell crowned with a non-chill bell ring.

Surely this is high-quality scope that will get the job done. Furthermore, it’s cheap compared to Littmann models that offer the same results.

Pros:

  • Cheap, stylish and performs extremely well.

Cons:

  • It’s slightly heavy – you might not feel comfortable hanging it around your neck or carrying in your pocket throughout the day.
  • Easily catches stains so you’ll have to clean it frequently

Wrap-Up

At the end of the day, you must buy a stethoscope, and it all depends on your needs. All the other factors come into play if you know what you do and what to expect from your stethoscope.

If you prefer a lightweight and mid-range stethoscope, the 3M Littmann Lightweight II S.E. Stethoscope gets the job done.

For basic acoustic needs and if you won’t be using your stethoscope frequently, the Prestige Medical Clinical Lite Stethoscope is the best.

If you’re a cardiologist or working in a department where excellent sound quality and extreme sensitivity are mandatory, the 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope is perfect for such needs.

Finally, because you can never find a faultless stethoscope, narrow down your search to performance. Different brands also offer similar features, and it can be downright daunting choosing the best stethoscope for nurses. Like we’ve stated, there’s always an option for you on the market. All you have to do is make the right decision.

About the author

Rita Davison

She is a writer at heart and usually likes managing all the content in Nurse Hive. She also likes shopping and loves recommending her top picks to the readers.