Breath sounds are the noises produced by the structures of the lungs during breathing.
Lung sounds; Breathing sounds
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 health care provider 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 four most common are:
Causes of abnormal breath sounds may include:
Seek immediate medical care if you have:
Contact your 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 usually discovers abnormal breath sounds. You may not even notice them.
The following tests may be done:
Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Chest and lungs. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Siedel's Guide to Physical Examination. 9th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2019:chap 14.
Kraft M. Approach to the patient with respiratory disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier ; 2020:chap 77.
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.