Using Your Stethoscope


The personal diagnostic tool you depend on day after day.

Learn more on how to get the most out of your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope

Using your stethoscope

  • Optimizing performance

    Five essential tips for using your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope properly.

  • Using tunable technology

    Listen to high or low frequencies without flipping over the chestpiece.

  • Using electronic stethoscopes

    Achieve a great auscultation experience, and share it with others.

  • Cleaning and care

    How to keep your stethoscope in top operating condition.

Optimizing performance

  • Nurse putting the eartips of her 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope into her ears.

    Five tips for using your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope properly.

    Littmann® Stethoscopes are known for first-class sound quality and comfort. But there are some simple things you can do to ensure the performance and wearability of your new scope.


  • Shiny aluminum eartubes of a 3M Littmann Stethoscope symmetrically crossing each other, with black eartips on the ends.

    1. Align the headset

    Before placing the eartips in your ears, make sure they point forward, away from you. (Figure A) This ensures that the eartubes will align with your ear canals for comfort and maximum sound transmission. Holding the headset in front of you with one eartube in each hand, pull the headset open and place the eartips into your ears. (Figure B)

    If the fit isn’t comfortable, or acoustic performance is lacking, adjust the headset tension. All Littmann stethoscopes feature adjustable headsets. Gently squeeze the eartubes together to increase headset tension; pull them apart to decrease tension.

    Wearing the headset improperly, (eartips pointing backwards, for example, as in Figure C) can result in a poor acoustic seal and, in some cases, complete sound blockage.


  • Doctor correctly putting on Littmann stethoscope with eartips facing forward.

    A. Proper Insertion

  • Doctor wearing his Littmann stethoscope correctly with eartips facing forward.

    B. Correct Positioning

  • Doctor incorrectly putting on Littmann stethoscope with eartips facing back.

    C. Incorrect Positioning


  • 3M Littmann Stethoscope soft-sealing eartips next to length measurement icon.

    2. Use the right eartip size

    For optimal acoustic performance, it’s important to use the eartip size that best fits your ear. This is especially true when using the soft-sealing eartips. All Littmann stethoscope eartips are available in small and large.


  • 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope chestpiece with a cyan arrow indicating chestpiece rotation.

    3. Rotate to the correct side

    When using a double-sided Littmann stethoscope, you need to open (or index) the side you want to use—bell or diaphragm—by rotating the chestpiece. If the diaphragm is open, the bell will be closed, preventing sound from coming in through the bell, and vice versa.


  • Cyan ring highlighting the tunable diaphragm that’s closing the bell of a 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope.

    4. Remove potential obstructions

    If you usually carry your stethoscope in a pocket, or don’t clean it often, lint or dirt may accumulate and obstruct the sound pathway. To prevent debris from accumulating, give your stethoscope routine cleaning and care. If you use a 3M™ Littmann® Cardiology III™ or Classic III™ Stethoscope, keep the open bell free of debris by covering it with the removable diaphragm.


  • Fingers removing the tunable diaphragm from the bell of a 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope.

    5. Check the seal

    Stethoscopes rely on an airtight seal in order to transmit body sounds from the patient to the practitioner’s ears. Loose parts in the chestpiece, loose or cracked tubing, or improperly seated eartips can prevent an airtight seal.


Using tunable technology

  • Top diagram shows light pressure applied to tunable diaphragm to pick up low-frequency sounds; bottom shows more pressure applied for high-frequency sounds.

    Easily shift between listening to high or low frequencies.

    Tunable diaphragm technology is a 3M invention that helps make auscultating a patient easier and more effective. It lets you hear different types of sounds by simply adjusting the amount of pressure you apply to the chestpiece of your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope.

    Nearly all Littmann stethoscopes feature at least one tunable diaphragm. (The exceptions: electronic, pediatric, and infant models.) Their tunable technology virtually eliminates the need to remove, turn over, and reposition the chestpiece just to hear different sounds.

    While other stethoscope brands require unscrewing and changing diaphragms and bells, Littmann stethoscopes are all about ease and simplicity.

    To hear low-frequency sounds, rest the chestpiece lightly on the patient. In this position, the diaphragm membrane is suspended, allowing it to resonate low-frequency sounds.

    To hear high-frequency sounds, apply firm contact pressure to the chestpiece. By pressing on the chestpiece, the movement of the diaphragm membrane is restricted. This blocks (or attenuates) low-frequency sounds which allows you to hear higher-frequency sounds.


Using electronic stethoscopes

  • Close-up of the chestpiece and controls of a 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope Model 3200.

    Don’t miss the sounds you need to hear.

    3M™ Littmann® Electronic Stethoscopes Model 3100 and Model 3200 are a bit more complicated to use than a mechanical Littmann stethoscope. But if you take a few minutes to learn the ins and outs of these amazing instruments, you’ll be rewarded with an exceptional auscultation experience.

    Bluetooth® is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG.


Cleaning and care

  • Littmann stethoscope properly worn outside the collar of a white lab coat preventing the tubing from touching the clinician’s neck.

    Keep your stethoscope in top condition.

    Your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope is designed to provide years of reliable service. Periodically giving it a routine cleaning helps ensure optimal acoustic performance, helps extend the life of the stethoscope, and leaves it looking shiny and new.


  • Proper cleaning of the open bell of a Littmann stethoscope using an alcohol wipe.

    General cleaning tips

    • If your stethoscope needs to be disinfected, wipe with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
    • Do not immerse your stethoscope in any liquid, or subject it to any sterilization process.
    • Keep your stethoscope away from extreme heat, cold, solvents and oils.
    • Tunable diaphragms can be removed from the chestpiece and their surfaces wiped with alcohol or soapy water. Dry all parts thoroughly before reassembly.
    • Eartips can be removed from the eartubes for thorough cleaning. For safety, snap eartips firmly back onto the ribbed ends of the eartubes.

  • Hands wiping down the tubing of a Littmann stethoscope using an alcohol wipe.

    Care for stethoscope tubes

    All Littmann stethoscopes now feature a next-generation tubing that retains its shape and flexibility even after folding tightly into a pocket. It provides longer stethoscope life due to improved resistance to skin oils and alcohol, and is less likely to pick up stains. However, it’s still good practice to wear your stethoscope over a collar whenever possible.

    Next-generation tubing is not made with natural rubber latex, a benefit to sensitive medical professionals and their patients. And, to play its part in the protection of human health and the environment, the next-generation tubing does not contain phthalate plasticizers.



Other 3M Sites:
Partner Portal
Follow Us
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.