How Often Should You Replace Your Stethoscope?

Stethoscopes are one of the most important diagnostic tools for physicians, nurses and other medical professionals. Having a stethoscope in top working condition is key to correctly diagnosing patients and getting them the treatment they need. However, certain actions can cause your stethoscope to become damaged or age prematurely—while others can prolong the life of your stethoscope. Below, we explain how often you should replace your stethoscope and what you can do to make it last longer.

doctor using stethoscope on elderly patient

How often should you replace your stethoscope?

Most manufacturers suggest replacing your stethoscope every two years. With proper care, however, you can prolong the life of your stethoscope beyond this time period, but you will need to be careful with it. (In the last section, we share some tips for how you can do this.) On the flip side, if you’re hard on your diagnostic tools and don’t take proper care of your stethoscope, it might not even last you the full two years before needing to be replaced.

doctor using stethoscope with mother and baby

What are the signs that you should replace your stethoscope?

So how do you know if you need to replace your stethoscope? Here are three signs to watch out for:

  • The sound quality is deteriorating. The whole point of a stethoscope is to enhance sounds, so once the auditory quality begins to go downhill, your stethoscope is no longer fulfilling its purpose. In some cases, swapping out the earpieces will solve the problem, but in other cases, the problem goes beyond a simple fix. If switching out the earpieces doesn’t help improve the audio quality, it might be time to replace the stethoscope altogether.
  • The tubing becomes hardened. Most stethoscope tubing is made of PVC, which can deteriorate or become brittle over time due to normal use. Exposure to body oils (for example, from draping the stethoscope tube over your bare neck) can contribute to the material hardening or cracking. If the stethoscope is noticeably less flexible than it used to be, to the point where it’s hard to handle, it might be time to replace it.
  • You notice cracks or other signs of physical damage.Damage to the stethoscope can occur in many different ways, from sunlight exposure to dropping it on a hard floor. Cracks, rips and other signs of damage will impair the functionality of the stethoscope, so you should replace the device if it becomes broken in such a way.

doctors wearing stethoscopes looking at information

How can you prolong the life of your stethoscope?

There are many different steps you can take to make your stethoscope last longer. Some of our top tips include:

  • Replace the earpieces often. This is one of the most important things you can do to prolong the life of your stethoscope, which is why most stethoscopes come with additional replacement earpieces. If you’ve run out of them, order them from a retailer such as allheart or contact the manufacturer to get more earpieces.
  • Keep the tubing away from your skin. Try not to carry your stethoscope draped around your bare neck. Either place it over your coat collar or if you don’t wear collared shirts or a white coat at work, then carry it in a large pocket instead.
  • Store your stethoscope wisely. When you’re not using your stethoscope, store it in a cool, dry place, away from the sun, oils, solvents and major temperature changes. All of these things can damage your stethoscope and reduce its functionality. A stethoscope case will keep your stethoscope clean and protected.
  • Clean your stethoscope regularly. Make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as cleaning your stethoscope incorrectly can actually damage it. Harsh chemicals are especially prone to causing damage, so use non-invasive cleansing agents instead. Never immerse the stethoscope in liquid, as this can hurt it as well. Cleaning it frequently will also reduce the chances that your stethoscope becomes an avenue for transmitting infections.
  • Examine it often. Sometimes damage might occur to your stethoscope but you don’t notice it right away. Carefully disassembling your stethoscope and examining each part for damage will ensure that you can catch cracks and other issues before they can get worse. You should also periodically test the auditory quality to make sure that it’s not deteriorating over time.

If you think it’s time to replace your stethoscope, then shop allheart’s selection of stethoscopes. We offer many of the top brands and provide personalization options as well. Get your new replacement stethoscope today!