bowel sounds are not counted when assessing them. listen for a full minute and then describe the sounds as being hyperactive or hypoactive and high pitched rushing or tinkling sounds or low pitched sounds. you can find assessment information on this sticky thread: Health Assessment Resources, Techniques, and Forms - health assessment resources, techniques, and forms. the site i like the best is the ucsd practical guide to clinical medicine: http://meded.ucsd.edu/clinicalmed/introduction.htm. click on "exam of the abdomen" to learn about assessing the abdomen.
I guess my question should have been more like how do you know when the sound "starts" and "ends"? Our book says that they can be heard every 5 to 15 seconds. I figured people just listen and kind of guess how it sounds. Obviously if you aren't hearing much it's probably hypoactive and if you hear them constantly its probably hyperactive. I guess I was just looking for something a little more definitive.
take your stethoscope and start listening to your own bowel sounds. just sit there and listen for a long time. there will be ending points. then you want to listen for the start of the next beginning sound. over time you will find there is a difference between hypo (sluggish) and hyperactive sounds. read doctor's history and physicals and see how they describe them. activity in the bowel changes all the time depending on when and what the person has eaten. mostly. . .you're going to get worked up when you hear nothing. that, along with other symptoms, is cause for worry about an ileus.