How to Listen to a Heartbeat
The human heart beats approximately 115,000 times per day. Listening to the heart can tell a great deal about a person’s overall health and well-being. You can listen to your heartbeat with a stethoscope if you need a precise check on how your heart is functioning. Having a basic understanding of what a normal heartbeat should sound like may help reassure you and help clarify your doctor’s findings as well.
How To Listen To Your Heartbeat
Sit in an upright or semi-reclined position in a quiet place. Listening to heart sounds is easier from this position 1. A quiet environment will help you hear low-pitched or soft heart sounds.
Position your stethoscope diaphragm over the chest wall directly against the skin. Listening to the heartbeat through clothing will be ineffective because the clothing will cause extra sounds like scratching or hissing noises.
Place the stethoscope earpieces into your ears. You should be able to hear the heartbeat clearly now.
Listen to the heart sounds at each of the five anatomical points identified in the diagram, "Locating the Assessment Points," found in the Resources section below. The points are: Aortic area: just to the right of the sternum about a half inch above the nipple line Pulmonic area: just to the left of the sternum about a half inch above the nipple line Erb's Point: About an inch directly beneath the pulmonic area Tricuspid area: about an inch beneath Erb's Point Apex or mitral area: About an inch lower than the tricuspid area on an imaginary line drawn from the center of the left collarbone straight down.
You should listen for a minimum of fifteen seconds at each site in order to ensure accurate collection of information.
Count the number of times your heart beats per minute and note any irregularities, extra sounds, or unusual sounds in the heartbeat. Think about how you would describe those sounds. Whooshes, clicks, gallops and plops indicate different heart problems.
The normal human heartbeat has two specific sounds–an initial “lub” sound and a shorter “dup” sound. The “lub” sound is made by the closing of the mitral and tricuspid valves in the atria of the heart. The “dup” sound is made by the closing of the valves in the ventricles of the heart. Each heartbeat consists of one “lub” and one “dup” followed by a brief pause before the next beat. You should hear “Lub-dup, lub dup, lub dup.” You should not hear any extra sounds such as whooshes, clicks or gallops.
The rhythm of the heart should be regular and the beat should sound fairly strong. The heart should beat approximately 60 to 100 times per minute, as well. A slight speeding up of the heartbeat as a person breathes in and a slight slowing as they breathe out are normal findings.
Any abnormal heart sound should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible. Additional testing may be needed to determine the cause.
- Eraxion/iStock/Getty Images