Auscultation is listening to the sounds of the body during a physical examination.
Auscultation is usually done using a tool called a stethoscope. Health care providers routinely listen to a person's lungs, heart, and intestines to evaluate these things about the sounds:
Providers also use auscultation to listen to the heart sounds of unborn infants. This can be done with a stethoscope or with sound waves (called Doppler ultrasound).
Auscultation can also be used to hear pulses in the arms and legs.
Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Examination techniques and equipment. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 3.
Swartz MH, Swartz TH. The physical examination. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 6.
Review Date 4/27/2023
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.