The art of listening

Learn how to properly use your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope and understand more about auscultation.

Education

  • How to choose a stethoscope

    Advice for finding the dependable clinical tool that will serve you for years— plus a look at the anatomy of a stethoscope.

  • Learn how to listen

    Auscultation is a clinical skill worth learning. Here’s how to begin.

  • 3M™ Littmann® Learning Institute App

    Take your auscultation training and reference sounds anywhere.

  • Stethoscope history

    From the simple tubes of the 19th century to the precision Littmann stethoscopes of today, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of listening.

How to choose a stethoscope

  • Close up of a doctor holding the chestpiece of a 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope with the Littmann seal on the diaphragm

    Before buying a stethoscope - learn to hear, see and feel the difference for yourself.

    When you're finding the perfect stethoscope, there's no substitute for trying out different stethoscopes.

    • Ask colleagues if you can listen through their stethoscopes. (Of course, clean the eartips before and after use.)
    • Look at the features.
    • See if the headsets are easy or hard to adjust.
    • Chances are, a 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope will offer everything you're looking for, and more.

     

     


  • Illustration with a gray silhouette of a person wearing a cyan stethoscope.

    Hear the difference

    An internal 3M test showed that heart sounds heard through the adult diaphragm of a Littmann® Stethoscope were more than four times louder (20 dB) than the same sounds heard through a differenct brand of stethoscope*.

    That's like the difference between whispering and talking. It could be the critical difference between hearing something significant in a patient, or not hearing it at all.

    *3M Data on file

  • Illustration of a stethoscope with kinked tubing next to a stethoscope with straight tubing.

    See the difference

    Kinks or bends indicate stiff tubing which can pull on eartips and make the stethoscope hard to use. Littmann® Stethoscope tubing hangs straight; it flexes easily as you examine a patient

    Littmann® Stethoscope eartubes are symmetrical for ideal eartip seal and comfort. The headset should be adjustable for individual fit and comfort. The headset tension of all Littmann® Stethoscopes is easily adjusted by gently squeezing the eartubes together to increase tension, or pulling them apart to decrease tension.

  • Illustration comparing Littmann® Stethoscope rounded soft eartips to head-edged eartips.

    Feel the difference

    Run your fingers over the Littmann® Stethoscope snap tight eartips. They're smooth to seal comfortably inside your ears without irritation. Now try to pull one off the eartube. The eartips really do snap tight for maximum acoustic performance and safety. Finally, feel the weight. Littmann® Stethoscopes are designed to feel light and comfortable when draped around your neck or carried in a pocket.

    Learn more about the advantages of Littmann® Stethoscopes.

  • Anatomy of a stethoscope

    Click the blue circles on the illustration to find general information along with facts specific to 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes

    Click the blue circles on the illustration to find general information along with facts specific to 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes

Eartips

Eartips are the parts that fit into your ear. They should fit snugly, sealing out ambient noise and helping you to focus on auscultation. All 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes are fitted with snap-tight, soft-sealing eartips.

Eartips

Eartips are the parts that fit into your ear. They should fit snugly, sealing out ambient noise and helping you to focus on auscultation. All 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes are fitted with snap-tight, soft-sealing eartips.

Headset

The headset is made up of two eartubes, the yoke and the eartips. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope headsets can be adjusted to ensure a proper fit into your ear canals by squeezing or pulling apart the eartubes.

Headset

The headset is made up of two eartubes, the yoke and the eartips. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope headsets can be adjusted to ensure a proper fit into your ear canals by squeezing or pulling apart the eartubes.

Eartube

Sound travels from the chestpiece through flexible tubing and then through the metal eartubes. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope eartubes are made of an aerospace aluminum alloy that provides both strength and lighter weight.

Eartube

Sound travels from the chestpiece through flexible tubing and then through the metal eartubes. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope eartubes are made of an aerospace aluminum alloy that provides both strength and lighter weight.

Eartube

Sound travels from the chestpiece through flexible tubing and then through the metal eartubes. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope eartubes are made of an aerospace aluminum alloy that provides both strength and lighter weight.

Eartube

Sound travels from the chestpiece through flexible tubing and then through the metal eartubes. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope eartubes are made of an aerospace aluminum alloy that provides both strength and lighter weight.

Tubing

Tubing provides the path for sound. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes feature improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol for longer tubing life

Tubing

Tubing provides the path for sound. 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes feature improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol for longer tubing life

Chestpiece

The chestpiece is placed on the patient to capture sounds. Some 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope models have a one-sided chestpiece with a tunable diaphragm. Others have a two-sided chestpiece with a diaphragm on one side and a bell on the other.

Chestpiece

The chestpiece is placed on the patient to capture sounds. Some 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope models have a one-sided chestpiece with a tunable diaphragm. Others have a two-sided chestpiece with a diaphragm on one side and a bell on the other.

Dual-lumen tubing

3M™ Littmann® Cardiology Stethoscopes have dual-lumen tubing: two sound paths inside one outer tube which helps eliminate the rubbing noise generated by traditional twin-tubed stethoscopes.

Dual-lumen tubing

3M™ Littmann® Cardiology Stethoscopes have dual-lumen tubing: two sound paths inside one outer tube which helps eliminate the rubbing noise generated by traditional twin-tubed stethoscopes.

Stem

The stem connects the stethoscope tubing to the chestpiece. On 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes with two-sided chestpieces, the stem is used to index, or open, the side of the chestpiece that you wish to use.

Stem

The stem connects the stethoscope tubing to the chestpiece. On 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes with two-sided chestpieces, the stem is used to index, or open, the side of the chestpiece that you wish to use.

Tunable diaphragm

A tunable diaphragm is a 3M invention that lets you easily switch between hearing high- and low-frequency sounds simply by adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece.

Tunable diaphragm

A tunable diaphragm is a 3M invention that lets you easily switch between hearing high- and low-frequency sounds simply by adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece.

View Video
Tunable diaphragm

A tunable diaphragm is a 3M invention that lets you easily switch between hearing high- and low-frequency sounds simply by adjusting the pressure on the chestpiece.

Warranties and repairs

Most parts of a Littmann® Stethoscope can be replaced while it is still under warranty. After the warranty has expired we offer affordable repairs that include replacing the tubing eartubes, diaphragm, rim, nonchill sleeves and eartips. It is recommended that the Littmann® Stethoscope chestpiece is replaced after ten years of use.

Learn more about warranty and repairs for your stethoscope

While we're showing a 3M™ Littmann® Cardiology III™ Stethoscope in these examples, please note that all current Littmann® Stethoscopes (with the exception of electronic models) have similar components.

Learn how to listen

Ascultation is a clinical skill worth learning. The ability to accurately identify various heart, lung, and bowel sounds can help you quickly and efficiently assess patients and monitor their condition. The following conditions and equipment will help you perform a proper auscultation:
 

  • • A quiet, well-lit, warm room
  • • An appropriately disrobed patient. This allows you to place the stethoscope directly on the chest or back and will eliminate distortions and frictional noise from clothing.
  • • The ability to examine the patient supine, sitting, and in left lateral recumbent positions. You may hear different sounds, especially abnormal ones, in different positions.
  • • A stethoscope with both a bell and diaphragm (or the capacity to act as a bell and diaphragm) is essential.

Learn more auscultation skills.

 

The 3M™ Littmann® Learning Institute App is packed with auscultation training resources that help sharpen your ability to hear.

Get details and download the app now.

3M™ Littmann® Learning Institute App

  • An iphone 6 with the 3M™ Health Care Academy application open

    Education at your finger tips

    Get exclusive training content on your mobile device that will hep you improve your auscultation skills and use your stethescope more effectively. The free 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope Learning Institute App includes self-paced lessons with heart and lung sounds, patient scenarios to help improve your diagnostic thinking, self-tests to track your progress, a sound library, and more.

    1. Find the 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope Learning Institute App
    2. Download the free app to your mobile device.
    3. Enter the serial number, found on your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope chestpiece, or voucher code to unlock unique educational content.

        


Stethoscope history

  • It all started with a paper tube.

    Modern stethoscopes: 200 years in the making.

     

    In 1816, French physician Rene Laennec invented the first stethoscope using a long, rolled paper tube to funnel the sound from the patient’s chest to his ear. Accounts vary on exactly how Laennec created his invention, but it was clear from the beginning that the acoustic properties of the tube greatly improved Laennec’s ability to hear vital heart and lung sounds. Laennec coined the name “stethoscope” from two Greek words: stethos (chest) and skopein (to view or see). He also called his method of using the stethoscope “auscultation” from “auscultare” (listen).

    Twenty-five years later, George P. Camman of New York, developed the first stethoscope with an earpiece for each ear. This design would be used for more than 100 years with very few modifications.

    Acoustic advancement.

    It wasn’t until the early 1960s that Dr. David Littmann, a Harvard Medical School professor, distinguished cardiologist and recognized international authority on electrocardiography, patented a revolutionary new stethoscope with vastly improved acoustical performance. He helped to transform a simple listening device into a powerful diagnostic tool. 3M acquired Dr. Littmann’s stethoscope business a few years later and continued to refine and improve on his designs.

    Maintaining relevance in 21st century medicine.

    Today, 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscopes are the diagnostic instruments that millions of medical professionals around the world use and depend on every day. Clinicians who take the time to learn and practice auscultation are rewarded with a valuable skill that helps them quickly assess, diagnose, and monitor their patients.

    Stethoscopes are also an important way for clinicians to make first contact with their patients. Using a stethoscope gives a doctor or nurse permission to “touch” a patient without actually touching. It helps break the ice, ease apprehension, and establish connection and rapport. The first use of a stethoscope makes patients feel that they’re being treated the right way.

    Numerous 3M innovations such as tunable diaphragms, Ambient Noise Reduction, and Bluetooth® stethoscope connectivity, have extended the capabilities of Littmann® Stethoscope far beyond Laennec’s (and perhaps Dr. Littmann’s) wildest dreams. Littmann® Stethoscopes have become the gold standard by which all other stethoscopes are judged.—the brand that delivers superior acoustics, innovative design, and exceptional performance.

    Bluetooth is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG.


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3M, Littmann, the L Littmann logo, L, Master Cardiology, Cardiology IV, Master Classic II, Classic III, and the shape of the stethoscope chestpiece are trademarks of 3M.

Bluetooth is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG.