Breath sounds

Definition

Breath sounds are the noises produced by the structures of the lungs during breathing.

Considerations

The lung sounds are best heard with a stethoscope. This is called auscultation.

Normal lung sounds occur in all parts of the chest area, including above the collarbones and at the bottom of the rib cage.

Using a stethoscope, the doctor may hear normal breathing sounds, decreased or absent breath sounds, and abnormal breath sounds.

Absent or decreased sounds can mean:

There are several types of abnormal breath sounds. The 4 most common are:

Causes

Causes of abnormal breath sounds may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek immediate medical care if you have:

Contact your health care provider if you have wheezing or other abnormal breathing sounds.

Your provider will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your medical history and your breathing.

Questions may include:

The provider discovers abnormal breath sounds in most cases. You may not even notice them.

The following tests may be done:


Review Date: 5/21/2017
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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