Why Doctors Use The Stethoscope?

Enter any clinic or hospital and you are likely to find doctors with a unique device worn around the necks. Yes, it’s the stethoscope – perhaps the most recognized symbol of medicine. However, many of us may not know what this instrument stands for, or why doctors use them, or what they listen to?

Well, the stethoscope is used to listen to internal body sounds. Healthcare professionals can use the device and listen to the heart and lungs or their sounds, and can also hear sounds of bowels and blood flow to other parts of the body. Based on the sounds, they do diagnosis of patients and start the right treatment.   

You should also know that –  

  • A stethoscope comes fitted with y-shaped rubber tubing to let sound be heard through earpieces  
  • Most of them have two tunable diaphragms so that one can listen to any frequency of sounds with ease
  • The test of listening to internal body sound through a stethoscope is called auscultation and it has no risks whatsoever  
  • The doctor can do auscultation and know what goes on in your body at a particular point of time  
  • There may be abnormal sounds around the lungs, heart, abdomen or bowels or blood vessels indicating some health problems

Body parts on which a stethoscope is used   

The doctor can place the instrument over bare skin and start listening to each area of the body for specific things. He or she will look for different types of sounds when checking for the heart, lungs and abdomen. So, let’s look what things or sounds are found –

Heart – the doctor uses the stethoscope to listen for what the heart sounds like; how often each sound occurs and how intense or loud is the sound.  

Abdomen – The doctor will check the abdomen to listen to the bowel sounds (which could be a swish, gurgle or nothing at all) to know what’s going on in the intestines.

Lungs – The doctor check whether the airways are blocked, narrowed or filled with fluid and look for abnormal sound such as wheezing  

Specific sounds to hear through a stethoscope  

It’s the sounds, their intensity and loudness, murmurs etc. that doctors are mostly interested in while using a stethoscope. Based on that, they do a well-rounded diagnosis. There are basically three types of sounds produced, including –  


When the heart beats, a normal sound of lub-dub is produced which the doctor listens for and diagnose the patient


Whooshing sounds or heart murmurs can also be heard sometimes when there is some irregularity in blood flow and an indication of some problem in the organ  

Wheezes and crackles

Wheezes and crackles are the sounds doctors look for in the stethoscope when using it to check the lungs. Normal lungs however should not produce such sounds.


The doctor can also use the littmann stethoscope classic 3 to listen to the gurgling sounds of bowel activity in the abdomen.  These sounds are normal and often movement of foods and gas can help produce them.

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