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Otoscopic examination

Otoscope examination is comprehensive examination of ears. It is also known as otoscopy as it involves use of an instrument ostoscope. The examination is performed by an ENT (ear nose throat) specialist.

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Purpose of otoscopic examination

The ear will be analyzed on complain of ear pain, redness and swelling.

The external auditory canal will be examined for build-up of wax, inflammatory symptoms like discharge, swelling, pain and foul smell from the ear.

Otoscopy also helps to remove foreign bodies from the ear. For example- children often tend to prick their ears with pencil, rubber, etc. and such objects can be removed with the help of an otoscope.

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Your doctor will perform otoscopy to check the reason behind irritation and itching inside ears. Infection in the middle ear can also be detected with otoscope.

An important application of ostocopy is to evaluate conditions of the ear drum or the Eustachian tube. Conditions like blockage, fluttering, glue ear, tinnitus (hearing ringing, buzzing and other unusual sounds in ear), low audibility, accumulation of fluid, perforation of ear drum, etc.

Any problem in your ear detected via otoscopy will then be followed up for treatment.

How otoscopic examination is performed?

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The otoscope is assembled with a handle and a head. The head is nothing but a magnifying lens having a light source as well. In some devices there’s an additional bulb and tubing through which air can be pushed in. This type of device is known as pneumatic otoscope. The ear drum moves on delivering little amount of air inside the ear. This forms the basis of the diagnosis.

Your doctor will hold the handle of the device with one hand and pull your ear gently upwards and downwards to see the internal condition with the help of the light source. The viewing tip is angled at different position to check the various structures of the ears and the associated symptoms. The otoscope is never inserted inside the ear canal.

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Otoscopy can be performed at home as well. You can get training from an ENT specialist to understand how to use it. If your child experiences frequent ear infections and ear pain then you may want to perform the initial test at home.

How to prepare for otoscopic examination?

There are no preparations for otoscopic examinations. If you or your child experience any of those aforementioned problems associated with your ears then walk in to an ENT doctor who will evaluate the symptoms and perform otoscopy straightaway.

How does the test feel like?

Your ears will be pulled slightly upwards or downwards to obtain a clear picture of ear structures. Otoscopy is painless. However, if you have an inflammation then you might experience pain while your ear is examined.

Let your doctor know if you experience pain, he might consider stopping the diagnosis with otoscope.

Are there any risks associated with otoscopic examination?

There are no risks of this procedure.  However, if the doctor is careless and doesn’t clean the viewing tip of the otoscope and check other patients with the same then they might contract an infection.  This instance is least likely to happen!

If you are performing otoscopy at home then make sure you know the technique correctly. Do not pull the ears harshly or apply pressure or insert the ostoscope inside the ear canal.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta

Date last updated: February 26, 2016