How to Use a Stethoscope Bell


A stethoscope is a piece of equipment used by medical personal to listen to sounds inside the body. For example, lungs sounds, such as wheezing and intestinal sounds can be heard using a stethoscope. The chest piece at the end of the stethoscope has two sides, including the diaphragm and the bell. The diaphragm is the flat plastic disk on one side. On the other side is the bell, which is cupped. The two sides can be used to listen to different frequencies of sounds, for a more efficient examination.

Understand that the bell of the stethoscope is used to listen to low frequency sounds. The diaphragm is used for higher pitched sounds. Knowing the difference will help you learn which side to use in different situations. For example, lung sounds are usually higher pitched and the diaphragm is used. Intestinal sounds may often be lower pitched and may be easier to hear with the bell. Murmurs may be easier to listen to with the bell.

Place the ear pieces into your ears and be sure they are tilted forward. This may make sounds easier to hear.

Open the bell. When the diaphragm is open, which means you can hear body sounds, the bell will be closed. This means you are unable to hear sounds through the bell. Open the bell by rotating the chest piece, where it connects to the tubing. Tap very lightly on the diaphragm to be sure it is closed and you can‘t hear out of it. Avoid tapping too hard. If the diaphragm isn’t closed, you will hurt your ears. If you can’t hear body sounds out of the diaphragm, it means it is closed and the bell is now open.

Instruct the patient to remain still. If the patient is moving around, you may hear clothing rubbing which will interfere with proper hearing.

Put the cupped side of the chest piece, which is the bell of the stethoscope, on the part of the body part you want to listen to. Avoid pressing to firmly. Unlike when using the diaphragm side of the stethoscope, applying too much pressure will make it more difficult to hear sounds. It’s not necessary to have the bell directly on the skin. However, thick garments, such as a heavy sweater, may interfere with proper listening.

Tips & Warnings

  • Listen to both sides of the body. For example, if you are listening to sounds in the intestines, listen on both the right and left side. Listen in more than one spot also.
  • Always wipe both sides of the stethoscope with an alcohol wipe between patients to prevent spreading infections.

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