Lung Sounds – Descriptions

Normal Breath Sounds
Type Description Location Characteristics
Vesicular Soft-intensity, low-pitched, “gentle-sighing” sounds created by air moving through smaller airways (bronchioles and alveoli) Over peripheral lung; best heard at base of lungs Best heard on inspiration, which is about 2.5 times longer than the expiratory phase (5:2 ratio)
Broncho-vesicular Moderate-intensity and moderate-pitched “blowing” sounds created by air moving through larger airway (bronchi) Between the scapulae and lateral to the sternum at the first and second intercostals spaces Equal inspiratory and expiratory phases
(1:1 ratio)
Bronchial (tubular) High-pitched, loud, “harsh” sounds created by air moving through the trachea Anteriorly over the trachea; not normally heard over lung tissue Louder than vesicular sounds; have a short inspiratory phase and long expiratory phase (1:2 ratio)

 

 

Adventitious Breath Sounds
Name Description Cause Location
Crackles (rales) Fine, short, interrupted crackling sounds; alveolar rales are high pitched.  Sound can be simulated by rolling a lock of hair near the ear.  Best heard on inspiration, but can be heard on both inspiration and expiration.  May not be cleared by coughing. Air passing through fluid or mucus in any air passage Most commonly heard in the bases of the lower lung lobes
Gurgles (rhonchi) Continuous, low-pitched, coarse, gurgling, harsh, louder sounds with a moaning or snoring quality.  Best heard on expiration, but can be heard on both inspiration and expiration.  May be altered by coughing. Air passing through narrowed air passages as a result of secretions, swelling, tumors Loud sounds can be heard over most lung areas, but predominate over the trachea and bronchi
Friction rub Superficial grating or creaking sounds heard during inspiration and expiration.  Not relieved by coughing. Rubbing together of inflamed pleural surfaces Heard most often in areas of greatest thoracic expansion (e.g., lower anterior and lateral chest)
Wheeze Continuous, high-pitched, squeaky musical sounds.  Best heard on expiration.  Not usually altered by coughing. Air passing through a constricted bronchus as a result of secretions, swelling, tumors Heard over all lung fields