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What is an Otoscope?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An otoscope is a medical tool which allows doctors to look inside the ears of their patients. In some regions, the device is known as an auriscope. The simple design of an otoscope actually allows doctors to use it in several applications, not just to look into the ears. Many doctors keep an otoscope, because it sometimes becomes necessary to examine a patient's ears. The device can be obtained from many medical supply companies, since it is a commonly needed item, and otoscopes vary widely in price, with high end models commanding a high price.

The design of an otoscope is very simple. The device has a long handle, usually textured for easy gripping. At one end, the handle has a bright light and a magnifying glass. The doctor inserts a disposable speculum into the otoscope, straightens the patient's ear canal by pulling on the ear, and inserts the otoscope to look inside. In some cases, the otoscope may have a space which allows the doctor to insert tools which might be required to treat a problem.

As part of a regular exam, the otoscope is used to check the health of the patient's ears. The examination may reveal a hidden problem which should be dealt with before it becomes worse. An otoscope is also used to examine the ears of a patient when he or she has symptoms indicating a problem with the ears. Some doctors also use the device to peer into the throat or nose of a patient, usually without a speculum attached.

Since the speculum is the only part of the otoscope which should make contact with the ear, it is designed to be disposable for patient safety. The disposability also allows doctors to use different sizes, customized for ears of older and younger people. Most doctors also wipe down their otoscopes after use to ensure that nothing is passed from patient to patient.

Using a otoscope properly requires training. It is possible to damage the ear of a patient during an ear examination. It can also be difficult to identify a problem if you are not familiar with ear anatomy and health. For these reasons, patients in need of ear examinations should always go to a doctor, rather than trying to use an otoscope at home. A doctor can identify the problem and establish a course of treatment while ensuring that the integrity of the ear is maintained.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Jul 07, 2011

@Azuza - A lot of people have medical phobias so don't feel bad. I don't know anyone else that has such distaste for the otoscope though!

I know having your ears examined is a little uncomfortable but it really is necessary. As the article said, it's better to discover problems before they become serious.

By Azuza — On Jul 06, 2011

I hate when the doctor looks in my ear with an otoscope. It really freaks me out! I've also noticed sometimes they use the same tool to look in my ears, then in my nose. My ears aren't dirty or anything but I still think this is really gross. Maybe next time I go see the doctor I'll request he change the speculum between my ears and my nose.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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