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Pediatric auscultation can be a tricky job even for the most experienced healthcare professionals.
Young patients come with unique requirements such as the need for specially designed equipment that’s appropriate for their stage of development. A stethoscope for pediatric use is noticeably smaller than an adult’s stethoscope, with an extra sensitive chestpiece to help the doctor complete exams quickly.
The best pediatric stethoscope for doctors is a tool that’s accurate, highly durable, and guaranteed not to cause discomfort to child patients. In this guide to the market’s best-selling pediatric stethoscopes, we take a look at some of the top models to find out which ones are worth their price tag.
See Also: The Definitive Stethoscopes Buying Guide
What Is a Pediatric Stethoscope?
Here are some key differences between adult and pediatric stethoscopes:
- The smaller size (bell, tubing, etc) to fit smaller torsos
- Bell is specially shaped to create a tight seal
- Non-chill rim for sensitive skin
- Bright colors on tubing and other parts to distract patients
- Extra sensitive acoustics
Pediatric stethoscopes work the same way as adult stethoscopes. The key difference is their size and, often, the use of bright colors and accessories to make medical exams more comfortable for infants.
The Best Pediatric Stethoscope
Some of the most respected medical manufacturers include Littman, MDF, and Adscope, all of which produce stethoscopes for adult auscultations and a version of their best-selling stethoscope for pediatricians.
While Littman is the most popular brand, it’s also the most expensive. Our guide considers some lesser-known options, and some hidden gems such as Bjorn Hall’s Scandinavian Design Pediatric Cardiology Stethoscope as well.
That said, there always has to be one that is the best overall. And in this case, for Pediatrics we are left with no choice other than the Ultrascopes Duo Stethoscope.
This stethoscope is perfect for pediatrics. The acrylic head lends to preventing a cold touch, dampens external noise and provides a wealth of great visual and customizable designs, and is easy to clean to top it off. We highly recommend that you check them out, you can read our review of their lineup of stethoscopes and products here!
What to look for in a pediatric stethoscope?
The best stethoscope for pediatrics is one with acoustics that is sensitive enough to differentiate between areas within organs such as the mitral, aortic, and tricuspid regions of the heart. This means a well-fitting earpiece that doesn’t leak noise or let in unhelpful ambient noises. Earpieces that are angled forward produce the best acoustics because they complement the shape of the external auditory canal.
It’s also important to consider the difference between the single lumen and dual lumen stethoscopes. Products with dual-lumen tubing cost more but can be used for very sensitive auscultations like cardiology exams. Their acoustics are more accurate than single-lumen acoustics. The auscultating doctor or nurse receives an individual sound channel in each ear which makes it easier to diagnose heart sounds and murmurs.
When it comes to pediatric stethoscope vs regular stethoscope, one major difference is the size of the chestpiece. The bell on pediatric models is usually around one inch to fit the smaller contours of a child or baby. Smaller bells also create a tighter seal against the chest which improves acoustic quality and helps pediatricians perform quicker, more accurate exams.
The catch-22 for a pediatrician is that children’s organs are smaller and harder to hear but auscultations become intolerable for young patients much more quickly as well. Heart sounds must always be clear and precise because a doctor cannot rely on a juvenile patient for information on their symptoms with the same confidence they can rely on an adult.
Almost all pediatric stethoscopes come with a non-chill rim around the bell and/or diaphragm to prevent discomfort during exams. For instance, Littmann pediatric stethoscope parts always come with a rubber or PVC lining that retains some heat even when the stethoscope is not in use. It means toddlers and babies are never startled by a cold piece of metal being placed against their skin.
Comfort is much more important for pediatric stethoscopes than adult ones because toddlers and babies can’t easily differentiate between pain and temporary discomfort. A pediatrician needs their patient to remain calm and quiet so they can perform a successful exam.
For the same reasons – a reduction of anxiety and discomfort – many pediatric stethoscopes come in bright colors or even have patterns on their tubing. The Littmann Pediatric Stethoscope Rainbow range includes a variety of colors that can be used to distract very young children and brighten interactions between doctors and their patients.
Some pediatric stethoscopes even have a molded chest piece shaped like an animal to add lightness and fun to a procedure that can be confusing for children. Doctors can also add a pediatric stethoscope attachment such as a colorful name tag or dangling distractor.
Pediatric Stethoscope Reviews
The Ultrascope Single Head Pediatric Stethoscope is a single-sided pressure-sensitive stethoscope that produces clear, accurate sounds even in very noisy conditions. It made our guide to the best stethoscope for pediatric nurses because it comes in so many colors and designs. The Ultrascope’s chest piece is available in more than a hundred varieties with everything from puppies to frogs, starscapes, unicorns, and cartoon nurses to keep juvenile patients distracted.
While this Ultrascope stethoscope can’t quite match Littmann’s models for acoustic clarity, it provides a high level of accuracy for its price tag. The downside is that it comes with a one-sided diaphragm rather than a dual chest piece so the user must apply precise pressure changes to produce varying sounds. On the plus side, it’s extremely lightweight (just 5.8 ounces) and its tubing is latex-free to increase comfort and prevent allergic reactions.
- Wide range of beautiful chest piece designs
- Super lightweight construction
- Latex-free tubing for sensitive skin
- Lifetime warranty w/ear tip replacements
- One-sided chest piece (not dual-sided)
- Less precise than Littmann’s acoustics
It won’t surprise those who work in healthcare to see Littmann stethoscopes make an appearance in our pediatric stethoscope reviews.
Littmann is the best-selling brand and its Classic II Infant Stethoscope might just be our favorite of the bunch. The product’s acoustics are simply exceptional, creating heart sounds clear enough for even the noisiest and most restless of pediatric exams.
The 3M Littmann Classic II Infant Stethoscope comes with a dual-sided chest piece, unlike Ultrascope’s, but you do have to pay more for this feature. It’s worth it though because, for their money, pediatricians get an ergonomic non-chill bell, dual-lumen tubing, and an angled headset for the wearer’s comfort during exams.
Low and high-frequency sounds are always clear and precise due to the stethoscope’s superb floating diaphragm.
- Dual head design (low and high frequencies)
- Angled headset with soft-sealing ear tips
- Non-chill rim for the patient’s comfort
- Exceptional acoustics (best on the market)
- Quite pricey
- Heavier than some rival models
This pediatric stethoscope from Littmann is ideal for auscultating children and small adults because its double-sided chest piece is the perfect size for smaller torsos.
The switchable diaphragm and bell set produces exquisitely clear acoustics across high and low-frequency ranges. The product’s next-gen dual lumen tubing is both tough and flexible.
Pediatricians working in hectic environments can fold and store this stethoscope in a pocket multiple times per day and the tubing will always spring back.
Other features such as the angled headset are great for increasing the wearer’s comfort and ability to pick up on subtle heart sounds. The stethoscope’s soft-sealing ear tips provide a snug, secure fit and further contribute to its outstanding sound quality.
This product is especially great for focal auscultation as it doesn’t pick up as much ambient noise as larger stethoscope bells in a busy environment.
- Snap-tight soft seal ear tips
- Super durable next-gen dual tubing
- Double-sided chest piece for high & low sounds
- Often rated the best on the market
- Quite pricey
- Heavier than some rival models
ADC Adscope’s Adimals Pediatric Stethoscope is the most obviously ‘childlike’ in its shape and design. The product’s one-sided chest piece is shaped to look like an animal and can be interchanged for as many as seven different designs.
This makes it an ideal choice for babies and younger children who need to be distracted during auscultations. Plus, the removable nature of the chest pieces makes them easy to keep clean.
While the stethoscope’s chest piece is one-sided, it comes with a fully tunable diaphragm to make switching between high and low frequency sounds much simpler. Its single tube design eliminates an impressive amount of background noise which is useful for pediatricians performing cardiology exams in busy clinics.
As far as stethoscope pediatric accessories go, ADC Adscope’s Adimals model comes out on top as it comes with latex-free PVC tubing, replacement ear tips, and a lifetime warranty.
- Beautifully designed ‘animal’ chest pieces
- Chest pieces can be removed and cleaned
- Tunable diaphragm for high & low sounds
- Super flexible latex-free tubing
- One-sided chest piece (needs tuning)
- No bag/storage for the removable pieces
We included the MDF Sprague Rappaport Dual Head Stethoscope in our stethoscope guide because it offers great value for money.
While it isn’t the best product on the market – its acoustics don’t match Littmann and there are some issues with its tubing – it’s an affordable option for trainees and nurses looking for a spare stethoscope to complement their primary cardiology tool.
The acoustic clarity offered by this MDF stethoscope is quite impressive considering its price.
There’s just one downside. Often, its dual lumen tube needs to be held straight to prevent it from curling during auscultations and impairing the sound quality.
Otherwise, it’s an attractive, sleek-looking product with a wide range of applications. Unlike the other stethoscopes on our list, MDF’s model comes with interchangeable parts that allow it to be used on adults, children, and neonatal patients.
- Triple application tool (adult, infant, and baby)
- SafetyLock on soft seal ear tips
- Ultra-sensitive diaphragm for ‘high’ sounds
- Highly affordable option
- Tubing tends to curl
- Not specifically designed for children
Bjorn Hall’s Scandinavian-style children’s stethoscope is surely a rival to Littmann when it comes to the best pediatric stethoscope for nurses.
It has a beautiful, clean design that might not appeal to toddlers but looks extremely crisp and stylish around a doctor’s neck. Plus, it’s super durable having been designed to withstand repetitive use over 12-hour shifts.
The stethoscope’s tube is 29-inches making it long enough to monitor heart and lung sounds but short enough to carry around in a pocket.
The ergonomic ear tips of this stethoscope are made from flexible silicone and come in three different sizes (small, medium, and large). Its dual-head chest piece is high-quality stainless steel with a non-chill rim to give young patients a comfortable, stress-free exam.
The product’s acoustically-sealed fit allows for high and low-frequency sounds, and the compact chest piece can be turned into a traditional bell by replacing the diaphragm with a bell sleeve.
- Includes large and small diaphragm
- Comes with 3 x ear tips
- Superb acoustics (low interference)
- Convertible open bell/diaphragm
- No bright colors to distract young patients
- White case/tubing gets scuffed easily
Frequently Asked Questions
Q – What is the best stethoscope for a nurse who needs to examine newborns?
A – Many pediatric stethoscopes are small enough to be used on neonatal patients but it’s worth checking the specifications for products to make sure.
Premature infants will need a specially designed neonatal model with the smallest bell and/or diaphragm available.
If the stethoscope doesn’t fit the contours of the patient, it will be difficult to hear their heart sounds.
Q – What is the difference between a pediatric and an infant stethoscope?
A – Again, the majority of cardiology stethoscopes designed for juveniles will suit toddlers and young children. It’s quite common for the words ‘pediatric’ and ‘infant’ to be used interchangeably, for this reason, however, there is a subtle difference.
In medical terms, an infant is a child below the age of twelve months. Children older than this are referred to as ‘pediatric’. Most products cover a range of ages but make sure to check carefully before buying a new stethoscope. The pediatric versions are sometimes bigger than the infant ones and have a wider chest piece.
Q – Why is a non-chill rim important for pediatric stethoscopes?
A – While a non-chill rim has no direct impact on a stethoscope’s sound quality, it contributes to more accurate auscultations by helping the patient feel comfortable. Children and babies, in particular, are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Placing a metal bell or diaphragm on a juvenile patient’s chest can lead to discomfort and even distress in some cases.
The quieter and calmer a patient is during auscultation, the easier it is for their pediatrician to identify any unusual heart and lung sounds. The non-chill rim is, therefore, a crucial feature of most stethoscopes though it is not limited to pediatric tools.
Q – What are the main differences between a pediatric stethoscope and a regular stethoscope?
A – To recap, the key differences between a pediatric stethoscope and an adult stethoscope are the size and width of the chest piece, the compact shape of the bell, and the use of bright colors and designs that can be used to distract restless patients.
Features like latex-free tubing and a non-chill rim are strongly recommended for the comfort of younger patients. It’s important that most (preferably all) of the materials used during auscultations are hypoallergenic as children’s skin is more sensitive than adults.
If you’re on the hunt for a reliable, affordable pediatric stethoscope, consider the options included in our stethoscope guide and reviews. Littmann is the stethoscope brand that tops the list for quality but it is not the only choice. Adscope, Bjorn Hall, Ultrascope, and a host of other manufacturers are producing stylish auscultation tools with increasingly impressive acoustics and accessories.
Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in your search for the best stethoscope for pediatrics. If you know of another stethoscope that didn’t make a list and should have, please let us know about it in the comments below!
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