How Often Should You Replace Your Stethoscope? The Ultimate Answer

Medical professionals, including physicians and nurses, rely on stethoscopes as one of the most important diagnostic tools. Therefore, the best way to diagnose patients and provide them with the proper treatment is by using a stethoscope that is in top condition. So, How Often Should You Replace Your Stethoscope?

As recommended by most manufacturers and users, stethoscopes should be replaced after two years of use. However, some quality stethoscopes may function adequately for more than two years if they are in good condition. But if you find a fault while diagnosing, replace it as soon as possible. 

You should be aware that certain actions can damage your stethoscope or cause it to age prematurely, while other actions can extend its lifespan. Therefore, this article aims to guide you in how often you should replace your stethoscope and its reasons.

How Often Should You Replace Your Stethoscope?

Stethoscopes are typically recommended to be replaced every two years by most manufacturers. Nevertheless, branded stethoscopes can last for a much more extended period, more than two years, if they are correctly cared for. However, you must be cautious. 

Furthermore, if you misuse your diagnostic tool and don’t properly maintain your stethoscope, you might not be able to use it for two years before having to replace it.

As a result, if you fail to take care of your stethoscope correctly, it may not function properly, and you might end up putting patients at risk. In that case, you need to replace your device as soon as possible. 

Replacing The Stethoscope Parts

Often, it’s not necessary to change and invest in a new stethoscope. Sometimes all you need is to change the stethoscope parts, like its ear tips, tubing. Because these two are the most common parts that may quickly get damaged or old and hard. 

In addition, some models come with spare parts, so you do not need to buy them separately. Instead, they come with the package, which is a good deal, as you don’t need to buy a new stethoscope. 

In What Circumstances Should You Replace Your Stethoscope?

It is obvious that before investing in your new stethoscope, there may be some signs that it needs replacing. But, do you know which key signs tell you when your stethoscope needs to be replaced every two years? Below are a few signs to watch out for. 

Increasingly poor sound quality

Since the purpose of stethoscopes is to enhance sounds, once the auditory quality begins to deteriorate, the stethoscope is no longer effective. In some instances, the problem can be solved by changing the earpiece. Other times, however, the problem requires more than a simple fix. It could also be time to replace the stethoscope if changing the earpieces isn’t improving the sound.

Hardening occurs within the tubing.

As a result of regular contact between the PVC material and the skin, the tubing becomes hardened over time. Hence, it becomes more susceptible to cracking and brittle over time. If a stethoscope appears to be less flexible than it used to be, to the point that it becomes difficult to handle, then it is probably time to replace it. Also, as a result of wearing the stethoscope around the back of the neck, the stethoscope tends to harden. 

Manufacturers usually recommend that stethoscopes be prevented or slowed down by wearing the stethoscope over the clothing. This will protect the tubing from the oils on the skin, which will help extend its lifespan. In addition, you can keep the stethoscope in the pocket of your long coat or a pouch.

You may see cracks or other signs of physical damage on your tool

Many factors can damage the stethoscope, from sun exposure to dropping it on a hard surface. It will be impossible for the stethoscope to function if its parts crack, cut, or other signs of damage, so it’s recommended to replace it if it becomes damaged in such away. 

What Is The Lifespan Of A Stethoscope?

Buying a stethoscope is an investment for healthcare professionals, which is why most of them use the device for a few years before replacing it or part of it. In general, manufacturers recommend replacing stethoscopes every two years, but medical professionals are unwilling to adhere to this recommendation.

Check the ear tips

It is vital to notice signs of wear on the device for extended periods to get the best use out of it. Stethoscope earpieces, for example, are often the parts that require the most replacement the quickest. Therefore, a replacement earpiece is typically included with most stethoscopes. However, you can also purchase other parts separately without having to replace the whole device. 

Check the tubes

It is also essential to check the tubing to see if the device needs to be replaced. It is unnecessary to replace the device if the stethoscope functions correctly and you hear the sounds. However, when hearing bodily noises becomes more complex, it is time to replace the device.

What Are Some Tips To Increase The Life Of Your Stethoscope?

Any medical professional must keep their stethoscope clean and in good condition. To ensure that your stethoscope lasts as long as possible and continues to function properly, it must be properly maintained. Your stethoscope can last longer if you follow a few steps. Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid Getting Your Skin In Contact With The Tubing

Your stethoscope shouldn’t be draped around your bare neck. Our skin contains a lot of oils and sweat that can damage the tubing or harden it. So if you are not wearing a collared shirt or a white coat at work, you should place it in your coat pocket. If you want to keep the stethoscope safe, you can purchase a pouch as well.

Keep Your Stethoscope In A Safe Place

Storing your stethoscope when it is not in use ensures that it stays cool and dry. In addition, you need to protect your tool from direct sunlight, oils, solvents, and sudden temperature changes. You can damage your stethoscope in all of these ways and make it less valuable. A stethoscope case will also help to keep your instrument clean and protected. Moreover, please don’t throw your tool here and there when it’s not in use. Please keep it in a safe place or drawer etc.

Frequently Replace The Ear Tips

One of the most fundamental ways to prolong the life of your stethoscope is to replace the earpieces frequently, which is why most stethoscope models offer extra free replacement earpieces. If you’re out of ear tips, you can order more from a retailer or contact the manufacturer for more. Also, if you are a professional and work with others with one stethoscope, you frequently need to change the ear tips to keep them safe and free from bacteria. 

Maintain Your Stethoscope By Regularly Cleaning It

If you clean your stethoscope incorrectly, you may actually damage it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use non-invasive cleansing agents instead of harsh chemicals since harsh chemicals are likely to cause damage. Avoid immersing the stethoscope in liquids as well, as this can also cause damage. By regularly cleaning it, you will also decrease the chances of transmitting infections through your stethoscope.

Inspect Each Part Of Your Tool Often

Your stethoscope may suffer from damage, but you do not notice it immediately. It is essential to disassemble your stethoscope carefully and inspect each part to ensure there are no cracks and no other problems before they get serious. It’s also important to test the auditory quality periodically to ensure that it hasn’t deteriorated over time.

Get your new replacement stethoscope if you think it’s time to replace your current one! Use the right stethoscope to diagnose the patient effectively.

How Often Should You Change Your Stethoscope Ear Tips?

As one of the first components of a stethoscope to show signs of wear, ear tips can also transmit hospital-acquired infections (HAI). In addition, if your ear tips have not been changed in a while, they can be very noticeable when the sound quality declines. Changing your ear tips regularly will improve the sound quality. 

Moreover, if you are a medical professional and share your stethoscope with other workers, you should change the ear tips frequently. It will prevent infection and germs.

Select the right ear tip size when replacing

Many stethoscopes are supplied with spares for this particular reason. In addition, when you want to change ear tips, do select the right ear tips size for your ears as they come in various sizes. 

What Are The Best Ways To Maintain Your Stethoscope? Tips

When you don’t take care of your stethoscope, it will not work correctly, and the risk of patients becoming ill increases. Therefore, it is necessary to take care of your stethoscope to extend its life and keep it working correctly.

There are five parts to a binaural stethoscope: ear tips, binaural pieces, flexible tubing, a stem, and a chest piece. Taking proper care of each component will ensure that the stethoscope works effectively, delivering accurate results every time.

Down below are some maintenance tips and advice that you should follow.

  • Do not expose your stethoscope to extreme temperatures, solvents, or oils.
  • One should never immerse the chest piece in liquid.
  • Use the non-invasive cleaning agents recommended by the manufacturer to maintain your stethoscope.
  • Clean the earpiece sound holes regularly to prevent debris from building up.
  • Avoid getting the tubing in contact with the skin. Instead, it should be hung on your collar. 
  • It is necessary to lubricate the rotating stem on stethoscopes with a two-sided chest piece.
  • Whenever you aren’t using your stethoscope, store it somewhere cool and dry. The ideal place to keep it is a stethoscope case.

When To Clean Your Stethoscope?

Keeping your stethoscope clean and well-maintained prolongs its lifespan, so know what you can do to keep it in good shape. Here are some situations when it’s essential to clean your stethoscope:

Switching between one patient and another

You must clean or wipe your stethoscope after every use. In this way, you will prevent bacteria from patient to patient and keep your tool clean.

When a shift begins and ends

Clean your stethoscope before and after the shift. This should form part of your daily routine and will help to reduce the chance of bacteria spreading.

Whenever necessary

 In certain situations, a stethoscope needs to be cleaned immediately, particularly if it is suspected of being polluted.

Stethoscopes Should Be Cleaned Using The Following Cleaners:

If you are a new user, you might be wondering what to use for cleaning your stethoscope. Here is a guide.

Mild, soapy water 

The most effective way to clean a stethoscope is the use of mildly soapy water. This requires access to basic chemicals, like soap and water.

Antibacterial wipes 

Another simple and quick method for cleaning your stethoscope is to wipe your tool with antibacterial wipes. Unfortunately, therefore, antibacterial wipes may not always provide the same level of hygiene as other methods.

Ethanol hand cleaner 

In hospital surroundings, ethanol hand cleaner is convenient for cleaning medical equipment quickly and easily, particularly in the absence of water.

Isopropyl alcohol 

It is recommended by most stethoscope suppliers that you use isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant for your stethoscope. Many forms of this product are available, including wipes, alcohol pads, and bottles. For cleaning, use a disinfectant wipe with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

Note: For specific instructions on cleaning your stethoscope, refer to the user manual provided by the manufacturer, as the instructions may vary. Keep your stethoscope and chest piece away from water and steam cleaning!

In addition, It’s not recommended to use hand sanitizer or other disinfectant solution. Nevertheless, if a stethoscope is regularly used, it will experience natural wear and tear, making replacement a wise decision, mainly when the sound quality degrades over time.

The Importance Of Durability When Investing In A Stethoscope 

Medical professionals and nurses often wear stethoscopes around the neck, mainly because they use the device during their shifts. So you should make sure that your stethoscope is durable so that you can keep it for years without having to replace it. You can determine the durability of your scope from the type of material used and the thickness of the tubing on your scope.

Stethoscopes are primarily made out of aluminum and rubber, so be sure to read the description of the material before purchasing. Materials of lower quality can affect the weight, acoustics, and how it sits around the neck. A low-quality stethoscope can also easily break, so it is a waste of money. Instead, invest in something long-lasting and worth its price. 

Practical Reasons To Invest In A New Stethoscope

No matter how well you’ve protected your stethoscope against doctors, dogs, daylight, and duct tape, it might be time to upgrade. There are several reasons why you should purchase a new stethoscope:

Enhance Your Listening Experience 

Stethoscopes are constantly evolving, so if you haven’t been keeping up, you may not be aware of the new models featuring one-piece diaphragms, next-generation tubing, and improved acoustics. So here is what you have been missing if this is a discovery for you. For example, tubes made with next-generation materials are more resistant to skin oils, alcohol, and stains, allowing them to last longer to enhance your listening and user experience with the new features. 

If The Readings And Diagnosis Are Incorrect, Grab A New Tool

It is essential to invest in your future by maintaining your stethoscope. Particularly if you find that your colleagues hear things you’re not, or if advanced diagnostic tests reveal information you did not know. There is probably a need to replace your stethoscope if this sounds familiar to you. 

Look For A Lightweight Tool

Suppose your stethoscope is draining your energy, whether physically or mentally, you should switch to a lightweight model. Buy a stethoscope that is easy to carry everywhere and lightweight enough to wear on your neck. 

Advanced Auscultation 

Take advantage of your advanced listening skills by rewarding yourself with a stethoscope that will help you utilize your auscultation abilities to the fullest extent. New stethoscope technology enables you to hear the hard-to-hear sounds within the body more efficiently and effectively. 

For Your Convenience, Buy Stethoscopes For Different Workplaces

You can’t always take your stethoscope with you everywhere you go. Nevertheless, you cannot predict when you will need it, so availability is crucial. Purchase more than one stethoscope to ensure you have one on hand at all times. Having three copies is a good idea. Keep one in your car or your bag, and one at the office.



Photo of author

Muhammad Bilal Qayyum

MBBS from Taishan Medical University and currently working in Bahawal Victoria Hospital. The blog is a great resource for both novices and experienced users when it comes to stethoscopes. As I studied and practiced, I evaluated various models on the market, which led me to become an expert in stethoscopes.

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