Medical calls and patient evaluations… it’s the new part of the Firefighter Lifestyle. Gone are the days of strict Fire Only calls, as Firemen are the first on scene at lots of different accidents and need to know patient care.
And when you need to having a solid stethoscope, it’s when things are looking bad and you need life saving stats ASAP.
Unfortunately, we are only as good as our tools, and some stethoscopes don’t make the cut.
I have created a list of a few solid stethoscopes perfect for this job. On top of this there are also some things to look for when purchasing a stethoscope and what to avoid.
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top picks for firefighter stethoscopes
The Best Stethoscope (and if you don’t loose it, the last one you’ll ever own)
The Littmann Cardiology IV is by far the best stethoscope I’ve ever used.
For one, the comfort of wear is super important and this one hits all the criteria. It’s just long enough, doesn’t chaff, and fits easily around my average sized man neck.
As far as audibility goes, it’s more than enough to hear lung sounds next to a busy highway. The ear pieces are soft rubber NOT hard plastics.
Admittedly I am biased when I talk about this Littmann stethoscope. It does run a bit of money but I was fortunate to receive it as a gift after graduating paramedic school (I also lost it in the lake after a freak accident boat call that I had to respond to. But the call had a happy ending, even if my stethoscope landing at the bottom of the lake… womp womp)
The Best Budget Stethoscope
This is from the Littmann line as well but is built with a metal and composite material to reduce weight and also take away the chill factor from normal metal chest pieces.
For those running a lot of elderly or pediatric calls, the chill factor is an important one to consider. And, it comes in a teardrop shape, so if you are doing a lot of manual blood pressure readings, it’s great for ease of use with those cuffs.
Littmann lightweight 2 also comes in a variety of colors (it’s so fun to match and personalize if that’s your thing) Plus, it checks all the boxes necessary for a comfortable and reliable tool for the job.
It is a budget option, and most of the times it’s on sale for fifty dollars or so, making it one of the best value stethoscopes on the market.
What about MDF?
Now Littman isn’t the only player in the game. MDF has quite a few options and designs, plus they cater to new healthcare workers with sales and coupons.
Here’s the thing though… there’s a reason they come with a ‘lifetime guarantee on parts’ and that’s because the parts don’t last to daily use.
I have the MDF for around the house, and use it when I want to listen to my kids, but I don’t depend on it when it comes to situations where every second counts.
So the MDF scopes work, but if you want a solid option that is reliable and you don’t have to worry about any spare parts, go with a littmann
Criteria for picking out a great First Responder Stethoscope
For starters avoid the dual tubing
What’s dual tubing? It’s where you have a tube for each ear, as opposed to the sound traveling up one tube into the earpiece.
I know some people say that it allows subtle sounds to be heard better due to each ear having its own individual tube. But being on the job for a bit now I have found that to be completely false or at least so little that it’s not even noticeable.
Grab one with a steel lumen head
This is extremely important because steel will transmit sound far more than lets say a cheap aluminum head. In fact this is a complete deal breaker for me. You don’t need the highest end stethoscope on the market but this is not something you should cave on.
Avoid plastic ear pieces
I have no idea if this actually affects sound quality or not but what I can tell you is those hard plastic tips hurt! The soft rubber ear pieces are the way to go and your ears will thank you later.
So many options
Now the market is literally saturated with makers and different brands but remember stethoscopes are not all made equal. Shockingly, in some places, 90% of what most fire departments do is medical. . Trust me your ears and patients will thank you!