How Do Stethoscopes Work? Here’s An Easy Explanation

How do stethoscopes work?

Stethoscopes make it easier to listen to the internal sounds made by the human body.

Your body makes lots of different creaks and whistles that can lead to diagnoses when heard by your doctor.

Stethoscopes are known as acoustic devices. They have become an essential tool in healthcare over the past 200 years.

This article will help you understand how stethoscopes work and give you a brief account of their history.

So how do stethoscopes work?

The main thing that makes stethoscopes work is multiple reflection of sound waves.

You can see/hear multiple reflection at work when you cup your hands around your ears to hear something better. Stethoscopes operate under the same principle.

Stethoscope tubing specifically enhances how easy it is for sound waves to bounce from the chest piece up to the earbuds.

Here are the main sections that make a stethoscope work explained

Chest piece

The chest piece is the part of the stethoscope that touches the patient and captures sound. The chest piece on a stethoscope has two sides:

Diaphragmstethoscope parts

The flat side is known as the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a flat metal disc that has a “chill ring” surrounding the inside of the disc.

When you go to the doctor, the diaphragm is mostly likely the side they use.  This is because the diaphragm makes high pitch sounds, regular breaths and heartbeats easier to hear.


The other side of the stethoscope is the bell. The bell is a hollow piece of metal that protrudes from the stethoscope. The bell is best at picking up low-frequency sounds such as heart murmurs.


Stethoscope tubing needs to be flexible enough to examine patients of all sizes, and still be durable enough to withstand heavy, daily use.

Polyvinyl chloride and latex rubber are common materials used for stethoscope tubing.


Stethoscope headsets carry the sound from the chest piece into the listener’s ears. Metal tubes are inserted into the stethoscope tubing to carry the sound.

The ear tips attached to the headset are usually made out of rubber and play a crucial role in how the stethoscope functions. The ear tips need to provide a proper seal from outside noise.  Also, ear tips also determine just how comfortable a stethoscope will be to use.


Binaural’s are the metal section of the stethoscope that brings the sound up from the chest piece into the listener’s ears. Binaural’s are closed off with ear tips to make wearing them more comfortable and to seal off outside noises.

1851 saw the invention of the first stethoscope with binaurals. You can read our other article here on different types of stethoscopes.

So, how do stethoscopes work? The chest piece, headset, binaurals and tubing collaborate to create an echo chamber.

The easiest comparison to how do stethoscopes work is the same as cupping your hands to hear something better.  Stethoscopes magnify this effect, which is scientifically known as multiple reflection.

This article will help you pick the best stethoscope as a medical student

You can also read up on choosing stethoscopes here

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Posted by DME Library

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