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The otoscope is a medical instrument used to examine ears for ear infections, inflammations, or any other issues. The otoscope is a small hand-held object that can look into peoples ears using a tiny lens. The head of the otoscope will emerge into the ear down the ear canal, and then examine the ear drum. If the patient has an ear infection, the otoscopy can be painful but should not cause much discomfort if they do not have an ear infection. There are three main types of otoscopes including the pocket otoscope, the full-size otoscope, and the video otoscope. The prices rises as you go from pocket to full-size to video. [1]


General Otoscope

The otoscope was first designed in 1363 by Guy de Chauliac as an instrument to inspect aural and nasal passages and cavities, yet it is now used to look into peoples ears. In Italy, in the year 1838, a man named Ignaz Gruber created a new conic shaped instrument, yet he never submitted his new device. Then E. Siegle made a new otoscope which could help the ears. The otoscope became a revolutionary tool used by doctors around the world. [2]

Structure of Otoscopes

The otoscope has a long handle, a small head, with a cone at the end. The cone is designed to fit inside the external auditory canal. The front of the head has a lens which allows the doctor to see the eardrum clearly. The end of the head is narrow cone and covered with disposable plastic heads, preventing the spreading of bacteria. Doctors use the otoscope to fit down the extremely narrow canal in order to analyze the ear drum. A healthy ear drum should be pinkish-grey. The doctors check the color, pressure, shape, mobility, and other symptoms in the ear. The otoscope also has a vent that allows the doctor to blow air through it and access the pressure of the inner ear. [3]

Types of Otoscopes

Types of wall-mounted otoscopes
There are two main categories and other side versions of otoscopes. Doctors can choose to use a hand held, battery operated otoscope, or one that has a cord and is mounted to the wall. There are advantages to both, yet if you use one that is mounted to the wall, it has AC power which lasts longer. Also, if using one mounted to the wall, the doctor can choose whether it should have a closed or open head. A different otoscope some doctors use is a video otoscope. This instrument has a small video camera on the front and is able to take pictures or videos of the canal and then the eardrum. By doing so, the doctor can examine the eardrum and canal much more closely, and give the patient a correct diagnosis. [4]

In addition to the two main versions: there are three other types of otoscopes: pocket otoscopes, full-size otoscopes, video otoscopes. All three of them perform a different job, and cost varying amounts of money. The pocket otoscopes are the cheapest and simplest otoscopes. You can buy them for around 100 dollars and they will do a basic otoscopy. These otoscopes are smaller and are meant to simply go in the doctors pocket or clip onto his coat. They are run by simple double A batteries and need to be charged frequently. The second type of otoscope is the full-size otoscope. This otoscope costs close to 250 dollars. These otoscopes are bigger and sturdier. The head and handle of the otoscope are changeable. These otoscopes also have chargeable batteries. The last type of otoscope is the video otoscope. These are much more expensive because they are used in large hospitals and doctor's offices. They cost around 1,000 dollars. There will be a cable running from the otoscope to a TV or computer, allowing the doctor or other people to watch the path of the otoscope and examine the inner ear more closely. Video otoscopes are extremely useful, yet are much more expensive. [5]

Otoscopy Process

Dr. Pemi examining a child's ear

When a patient goes to see an ear doctor, the doctor performs an otoscopy. They first check the outer ear for any inflammation, redness, irritation, or any other symptoms. Then they take the otoscope and begin examining the inner ear and ear drum. The doctor then lifts the outer ear (pinna) up and back so that the canal becomes straighter and easier to move through. Once the otoscope is inserted within the external auditory canal, the doctor can clearly assess the ear drum. The otoscope is able to blow air into the ear to analyze the ear drum. By blowing air in, the doctor can tell whether the ear drum moves, proving the mobility of the tympanic membrane. The doctor also looks for inflammation, dryness and flakiness, any sort of discoloration or irritation, and any unusual growths. [6]

Depending on what the doctor is examining, the type of otoscopy may vary. One specific type of otoscopy is a Pneumatic Otoscopy. In a pneumatic otoscopy, the doctor lifts up the pinna and straightens the ear canal, and then inserts the otoscope into the patients ear. The doctor then proceeds in compressing the small rubber ball at the end of the otoscope, creating a puff of air into their ear. This puff of air alters the air pressure in around the ear drum and allows the doctor to analyze the mobility. When they change the air pressure the ear drum moves, then the doctor knows that there is no fluid that has collected in the ear thus the patient does not have an ear infection. Pneumatic otoscopies go very quickly and the doctor can decide on a verdict quickly. The patient should feel no pain or irritation if done correctly. While the otoscopy is taking place, the patient must remain still or else the doctor could poke or damage the ear drum, causing extreme discomfort to the patient. [7]


Otoscopes are medical instruments used to examine peoples ears. The unique instruments are able to look into peoples ears and check on the physical status of the inner ear. Otoscopes allow doctors to see the outer ear as well as the middle and inner ear. The doctor inserts the little telescope-like instrument into the patients external auditory canal and begin looking for infections or other symptoms. [8]

Explanation and demonstration of an otoscopy.


  1. What is an otoscope Web. Date of last-update 17 March 2010. Unknown Author.
  2. DeMarino, Nicholas. The History of the Otoscope eHow. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013.
  3. Pillinger, John. Ear examination (otoscopy) Netdoctor. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013.
  4. Types of Otoscopes Unknown. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013. Unknown Author.
  5. A. U. Bankaitis, PhD, FAAA Otoscopes Audiologyonline. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013.
  6. Pillinger, John. Ear examination (otoscopy) Netdoctor. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013.
  7. What Is Pneumatic Otoscopy? WiseGeek. Web. Date-of-access 8 May 2013. Unknown Author.
  8. Otoscope Wikipedia. Web. Date-of-access 23 April 2013. Unknown Author.