What instrument is used?
To examine the inside of your ear (the ear canal and the eardrum), your healthcare provider will use an instrument called an otoscope (this can also be called an auroscope).
- An otoscope is a handheld tool with a light and a magnifying lens (see image below).
- It has a removable plastic tip shaped like a cone that allows the healthcare provider to look inside your ear.
- A pneumatic otoscope has a rubber bulb that your healthcare provider can squeeze to give a puff of air into the ear canal. The air helps them see how the eardrum moves.
- They might use a tympanometer. It looks like an otoscope but instead of being used to look in your ear, it sends a puff of air down your ear canal and gives a reading of your ear drum movements on a screen.
Image credit: Canva
How is it done?
Older children and adults sit in a chair, tilting their heads to the side to allow the healthcare provider to examine each ear. Your healthcare provider will likely hold your outer ear to stretch your ear canal so they can see your ear drum better.
If you take your young child for an ear examination, your healthcare provider will show you how to hold them. Often this will be sitting on your lap facing away from you. You hold one arm across their forehead and the other across both their arms. This keeps them safe while the otoscope is inside their ear canal. Young babies may have their ears examined snuggled against your neck, or on the bed.
The tip of the otoscope is gently placed into your ear and a light is shone into your ear canal and down to your eardrum. The otoscope is carefully moved to see the inside of your ear and your eardrum. The examination usually takes less than half a minute.
An ear exam may be slightly uncomfortable or painful if you have an ear infection. Your healthcare provider will stop the exam and remove the otoscope if it gets worse.