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How to Listen to a Heartbeat

by
author image Kelly Price
Kelly Price began developing study guides for nursing students in 2008. She has been a registered nurse since 1990 and has worked in multiple nursing fields. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Colorado, a Master of Science in nursing from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master of Arts in education from the University of Colorado.
How to Listen to a Heartbeat
3D rendered illustration of human vascular system. Photo Credit Eraxion/iStock/Getty Images

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

Step 1

Sit in an upright or semi-reclined position in a quiet place. Listening to heart sounds is easier from this position. A quiet environment will help you hear low-pitched or soft heart sounds.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

Place the stethoscope earpieces into your ears. You should be able to hear the heartbeat clearly now.

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Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

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References

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