Optimizing Performance


  • Nurse putting the eartips of her 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope into her ears.

    Five tips for using your 3M™ Littmann® Stethoscope properly.

    Littmann stethoscopes are known for first-class sound quality and comfort. But there are some simple things you can do to ensure the performance and wearability of your new scope.


  • Shiny aluminum eartubes of a 3M Littmann Stethoscope symmetrically crossing each other, with black eartips on the ends.

    1. Align the headset

    Before placing the eartips in your ears, make sure they point forward, away from you. (Figure A) This ensures that the eartubes will align with your ear canals for comfort and maximum sound transmission. Holding the headset in front of you with one eartube in each hand, pull the headset open and place the eartips into your ears. (Figure B)

    If the fit isn’t comfortable, or acoustic performance is lacking, adjust the headset tension. All Littmann stethoscopes feature adjustable headsets. Gently squeeze the eartubes together to increase headset tension; pull them apart to decrease tension.

    Wearing the headset improperly, (eartips pointing backwards, for example, as in Figure C) can result in a poor acoustic seal and, in some cases, complete sound blockage.

  • Doctor correctly putting on Littmann stethoscope with eartips facing forward.

    A. Proper Insertion

  • Doctor wearing his Littmann stethoscope correctly with eartips facing forward.

    B. Correct Positioning

  • Doctor incorrectly putting on Littmann stethoscope with eartips facing back.

    C. Incorrect Positioning


  • 3M Littmann Stethoscope soft-sealing eartips next to length measurement icon.

    2. Use the right eartip size

    For optimal acoustic performance, it’s important to use the eartip size that best fits your ear. This is especially true when using the soft-sealing eartips. All Littmann stethoscope eartips are available in small and large.


  • 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope chestpiece with a cyan arrow indicating chestpiece rotation.

    3. Rotate to the correct side

    When using a double-sided Littmann stethoscope, you need to open (or index) the side you want to use—bell or diaphragm—by rotating the chestpiece. If the diaphragm is open, the bell will be closed, preventing sound from coming in through the bell, and vice versa.


  • Cyan ring highlighting the tunable diaphragm that’s closing the bell of a 3M Littmann Cardiology III Stethoscope.

    4. Remove potential obstructions

    If you usually carry your stethoscope in a pocket, or don’t clean it often, lint or dirt may accumulate and obstruct the sound pathway. To prevent debris from accumulating, give your stethoscope routine cleaning and care. If you use a 3M™ Littmann® Cardiology III™ or Classic III™ Stethoscope, keep the open bell free of debris by covering it with the removable diaphragm.


  • Fingers removing the tunable diaphragm from the bell of a 3M Littmann Classic III Stethoscope.

    5. Check the seal

    Stethoscopes rely on an airtight seal in order to transmit body sounds from the patient to the practitioner’s ears. Loose parts in the chestpiece, loose or cracked tubing, or improperly seated eartips can prevent an airtight seal.

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