Having trouble hearing with stethoscope

Nurses Uniform/Gear


Are there any other new students who are having a hard time hearing with their stethoscope. I don't understand why I'm having a hard time. With some patients I hear fine and with others I can't pick up a blood pressure or hear heartbeats. I'm using an electronic stethescope too! My clinical teacher told me to get my hearing checked and warned me if I can't hear with a stethoscope I don't belong in nursing. Another student told me she occasionally comes across a patient that she can't hear heart sounds from her stethescope. Would like to hear from others regarding their experiences with stethoscopes. By the way I can hear my own heartbeat and lung sounds just fine when I practice on myself.


136 Posts

When I was in nursing school we had a girl in our class who was legally deaf in one ear. She purchased some type of special stethoscope that was very expensive. But our instructors never discouraged her from becoming a nurse. They can not discriminate due to a disability. (Or at least that is what our college handbook states.)

Good luck and don't give up.


144 Posts

Happens to me too. I think you are doing just fine. I think b/c people's anatomies are different your steth might not be at the precise location to detect an apical or brachial pulse.

A hearing test can't hurt especially in such a noisy world. A simple hearing test is the one my doc did when I was a kid. Put a ticking watch near your ear. Can you hear it? If you have diminished hearing it might be something as simple as excess cerumen.

You sound like you are doing fine.



550 Posts

Oh no, I am having the same problem and it is really upsetting. I know that I have had some mild hearing loss USUALLY it is not a problem even with blood pressures. I have a littman stethoscope and do ok with it. I bought a better stethoscope for that reason (of course at the moment I can't find it so am very panicked. I will be doing a major search through my house this weekend.) We have to use the double headed instructor's double stethoscope at school and that double tubing makes it very hard for me. One of the things I have tried to do is make sure all background noise is eliminated or lowered as much as possible. My instructor also suggested using two fingers to hold the bell instead of my thumb like I usually do because it holds it a little more stable so less rattling with it. Um, trying to think what else. I have to pay careful attention to how I place the earpieces too. I am really getting frustrated myself though. I haven't mentioned the fact that I know I have had mild hearing loss because I know it is very mild as I made it through the screening for the military. I am afraid if I say anything it will make the situation worse (not sure that this is the right thing to do though). Anyhow, just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I am fine with my other stethoscope and try to remember that when I am with my instructors for test out.



780 Posts

OK, ol' lady here again. I can't hear a thing with a traditional littman scope. The Sprague Rappaport models originally made and still made by Hewlett Packard.

Mine when I got it, in 1975 cost $60.00, it is now >$200.00, but wait!!!!

You can get a similar model in any uniform store. It is the kind with two tubes that lead into the head of the scope. The biggest problem with stethoscopes is the tubing is much too long. I have measured mine (just now)! And it is 14 inches from the head to the metal parts that go into your ears.

Another reason why people have difficulty hearing is the ear pieces are pointed in the wrong direction. The tips should be pointed forward. (I had to switch many nursing students in my classes) When you buy the S/R model, less than 25 dollars in a uniform store, use the adult diaphragm on one side, do not put the bell one the other, attach the pediatric diaphragm on the other side.

Finally, if you can't hear somone's heart sounds, chart them as "distant" cuz sometines they are.


77 Posts

I changed my earpieces and could hear a TON better. I had to switch to some stubby hard ones but it worked! :) HTH ~twintoo


355 Posts

Specializes in School, Camp, Hospice, Critical Care.

I also have a minor hearing deficit from an injury as a child.

I bought a Littmann Master Classic II cuz folks recommended it highly--but I've been having the darndest time with hearing just about anything. At my last clinical, I asked my instructor to help me find the apical pulse on a patient. She used my stethoscope and immediately said "This stethoscope stinks; I can't hear a thing!" So at least now I'm feeling better about it--maybe it's not me.

I contacted the vendor (Allheart.com) and they are going to replace the scope. While I'm waiting for it, I am going to buy a double-tubed inexpensive scope at the local uniform shop to see how I do with that--I have to have a scope for clinical anyway.

And it's baloney about your not belonging in nursing :eek: The instructor could be a bit more constructive and try to help you find solutions, rather than knocking you down! If you go for a hearing consult, I bet a good EENT doc or nurse can help you find a scope that'll work well for you.

Good luck! :cool:


269 Posts

I have a fellow nurse who works at our facility that has hearing aids.

I will ask her what works best for her. I also have a hard time hearing a B/P

I have a double tube (Short) stethscope when I forget it at home I use a littman from work it has soft earpieces. The first thing I do when I get to work is hunt it down and wrap it around my neck.

My teacher also taught me to watch the indicator it will bounce slightly to help indicate the start of systolic pressure

sanakruz, ADN

735 Posts

Hey dont sweat it so much- Some people are harder to hear than others. KEEP PRACTICING

(That's why they call it nuring practice....)

sbic56, BSN, RN

1,437 Posts

Specializes in Obstetrics, M/S, Psych.
Another reason why people have difficulty hearing is the ear pieces are pointed in the wrong direction. The tips should be pointed forward.

This is so true, Barb! I can't hear a thing if the ear pieces aren't angled forward just right. I'm willing to bet this is more of a problem than hearing loss. (I have that, too.)

Also, that instructor's comment to get out of nursing if the student couldn't hear with a steth was terrible. She sounds like the one who should perhaps get out of teaching nurses with that attitude!


105 Posts

in my experience, i cannot hear very well out of stethoscopes either. I bought an ultrascope, and it works really well! I love it! You can find them at http://www.ultrascopes.com good luck!


28 Posts

Great suggestions so far....may also be worth spending some time in a uniform shop if you should have one nearby to try out several different models/brands of scopes. Take someone with you to try finding heart/breath sounds on. There really isn't one set brand of "good" stethescopes; each person has a preference on what works for them.

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