Parts of a stethoscope: An Intro to Stethoscope Terminology

Are you new to using stethoscopes? Do you want to learn some stethoscope terminology or maybe you are just looking to learn something thing new about stethoscopes in general. In this article I will be going over and explaining the individual parts of a stethoscope.

A stethoscope is an important tool that is used by health care professional to listen to the internal sounds of the body, such as the heart and lungs sounds.

Each individual part of a stethoscope are essential and play a vital role in ensuring accurate assessment and diagnosis.

And now we can dive in and discuss each individual part of the stethoscope.

The parts of a stethoscope are as follows:

  • Diaphragm
  • Bell
  • Chest-piece
  • Tubing
  • Headset
  • Ear tube or Aural tube
  • Ear-tips

Diaphragm

Description

The diaphragm is the largest portion of the chest-piece and it is often used to listen to high frequency sounds in the body.Now this part is often easily confused for the bell by new users. There are several key differences between the diaphragm and the bell. The diaphragm is usually larger in diameter and is usually used in assessment of adult and heavy set patients.

Most high end stethoscopes are tunable which simply means that the user can be able to hear different sounds in a patient’s body simply by adjusting the pressure on the chest piece.

Bell

Description

The bell is the smaller portion of the chest-piece and as the name suggests it has a bell shape. It is often used to listen to lower frequency sounds in the body.

The bell is great for the assessment of children, skinny patients, carotid assessments or generally assessing areas of the body that requires light contact.

Some bells are characterized with a tunable diaphragm, which means that you have to perform a full rotation of the chest-piece to switch between using the bell land the diaphragm.

Other stethoscopes have bells with an open feature which means that the bell is always open when in use. To switch from diaphragm to bell in an open chest-piece, one has to place the bell with light contact on the area of assessment.

Chest-piece

headset of a stethoscope

Description

The chest piece is the portion of a stethoscope that you place on a patient during an assessment. It is used for listening to sounds in the body such as that of the heart, stomach and lungs.

Most chest-piece are made up of a bell and a diaphragm, although there are some stethoscopes with chest-piece that are not equipped with the bell feature.

Also, it is important to note that some of the stethoscope have a one sided or single headed chest-piece while others are double-sided or dual headed.

Tubing

Descriptiontubing of a stethoscope

The tubing is the longest part of the stethoscope. It allows for the transfer the frequency and acoustic sounds from the chest-piece to the ear tubes where it can be listened to by the user.

Some stethoscopes have single lumen tubing while other have a double or dual lumen tubing.The dual lumen tubing is much more sensitive to sounds than the single lumen tubing. In fact, the dual lumen tubing has two tubes connected from the chest-piece to each ear, which means you can hear the sound clearly and helps with accuracy in diagnosis.

On the other hand a single lumen tubing has one tube connected to the chest piece, which then splits into two tubes that goes into the ears.

Some stethoscopes are fitted with tubing features that are resistance to skin oils and alcohol for increased durability.

Most stethoscopes are fitted with tubing that do not contain latex

Headset

Description

The headset is usually the top part of the stethoscope and is made up of two ear tubes, tension springs and the ear tips.

The headset tension is the part that can adjusted for individual fit and comfort. This can be done by pulling the ear tubes apart to reduce the tension, or squeezing them together (crossing them over) to increase tension.

To correctly wear the headset and insert the ear tips of the stethoscope into the ears of, the user must ensure that the ear tips are pointing away from you because of the anatomical structure of the ears.

Ear tube or Aural tube

Description

The ear tubes are made up of metal tubes and connect the ear tips to the tubing on the stethoscope, which then connects to the stem of the chest-piece.

They are designed to isolate and transfer sound coming from the chest piece into the users ears, while ensuring that there is minimum quality loss of sound.

Ear-tips

Description

This is also known as the aural tubes. It is the part of the stethoscope that you put into your ears to listen to bodily sounds.Ear tips of a stethoscope

They are usually made out of silicone or rubber material and are made to keep out sound by maintaining a form fitting seal inside of the ears.

It is crucial that users test out the ear tips to determine that they are not too tight before purchase. This is because, an uncomfortable ear tip will hurt the ears and make patient assessment painful and unbearable.

The ear tips are usually small and can be get worn out over time or even misplaced if not taken care of properly. However, most stethoscopes come with extra pieces of replaceable ear tips to replace worn out, lost or old one.

Bringing it all Togetherparts of a stethoscope

In a nutshell, those are the different parts of a stethoscope and their functions, you can see that all the parts play a vital role in the accuracy of assessment and diagnosis of patients.

Now that you have a comprehensive knowledge about the parts of a stethoscope, you are fully aware of the function that each part play and this can enable you to be able to effectively carry out a patient assessment.

If you have any feedback, questions or concerns about this article. I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the comments section below.

Thank you for reading!

About Pam 10 Articles
Pam is the founder and author of InfoWatchNurse and ThinkStethoscopes. Pam is an award-winning leader. In 2017, She pioneered the first ever peer tutoring program for nursing students at York University. She was also a Peer Tutor and Mentor for nursing students. Today, Pam creates posts and articles on health topics to give back to the nursing community.  She blogs about nursing, health, nursing skills and other health-related topics on her websites. You can connect with Pam on Linkedin and Instagram.

14 Comments

  1. Hi Pam,

    I never new there was so much intricacies to a stethoscope. So many parts, to an untrained eye, would never occur to me.

    One question though – why is Diaphragm so cold? Always Doctors allow it to be freezing to the touch.

    This has definitely answered all of my questions on all the parts to a stethoscope simply laid out for a lay person in this area to understand. Very much appreciated Pam 🙂 .

    • Hi Philip,

      I am so glad that you enjoyed your read. To answer your question “why is the Diaphragm so cold?” I would say it depends on the type or brand of stethoscope used by your doctor. Some brands of stethoscopes have their chest-piece specifically fitted with a no-chill retaining feature which simply means that the chest-piece usually do not feel cold when placed on the patient’s skin. I have another article that goes more into detail about the best brands of stethoscope in the mark. You can find the link here: The best stethoscopes
      I hope I was able to answer your question.

      Have a great day

      Pam

  2. Hi Pam,

    Yes, that has definitely answered my question. So it all depends on how cheap a doctor you go to hehe.

    Thanks again Pam – your quick response is very much appreciated.

  3. This was very interesting.

    I didn’t know the difference between the diaphragm and the bell. I never knew that you could flip them to listen to different sounds.

    Is there a specific brand of stethoscope that is better than most of the others?

    • Hi Nancy,

      I am so glad that you learned about the difference between diaphragm and the bell of a stethoscope and their functions. To answer your question yes some stethoscopes have advance features and capabilities that make them better than others. If you want to learn more about the best stethoscopes, I have an article that goes into more details about that. To learn more click this link: The best stethoscopes

      Thank you so much for reading

      Have a good day friend!

      Pam

  4. Hi Pam,

    Wow. I feel like I learned so much after reading this. I have always wondered exactly how stethoscopes worked and now I finally know. There’s a lot more parts to them than I ever realized. Thank god someone invented them LOL. Thanks for the information and great article!

  5. Such an informative article. I now feel like I have a much better understanding of the stethoscope. Your knowledge is great! Even though I’m not super technically minded you made it really simple to understand so thank you!

    • Hi Natalie,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad that you found the article informative. I am trying my best to explain the concepts in a simple way as much as possible so that everyone can understand. I am glad you liked it. Have a wonderful day

      Regards,

      Pam

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