The Physician uses a specialized instrument called an “otoscope” (“oto” = Ear; and “scope” = to view) to examine an ear. The otoscope allows the physician to not only magnify the small areas of the ear but it also provides light for the areas that are to be viewed. Even though the otoscope is traditionally a tool of a physician, one does not have to be a physician to be able to use this instrument. However, it must be emphasized that you cannot simply “pick up” an otoscope or any other technical instrument and use it beneficially. The correct use of such an instrument requires, at least, some basic instruction in its use and function.
Otoscopes vary in size, sophistication and cost. The uses of the instrument vary directly with the cost. An otoscope may be purchased for as little as $10.00 or as much as $15,000.00. The very good otoscopes used by physicians and the one that you would most often see in a doctor's office probably cost in the neighborhood of $200.00. The average person can secure a very usable otoscope for $30.00 to $70.00. Any good otoscope should allow the average person to examine the outer ear, the ear canal and the ear drum after receiving the proper basic instruction.
It is important to remember that the ear is very sensitive. One should take great care not to be rough when examining the ear or the person being examined probably will not allow you to look a second time.
The examination requires two hands, one hand to hold the ear and the other to hold the otoscope. ALWAYS REMEMBER that the ear canal is not straight. In order to get the best view of the ear drum, the viewer will have to move both the outer ear and the otoscope up and down or back and forth. It may take many examinations to become comfortable with the instrument. However, each time that you attempt to use an otoscope to view the ear drum your abilities will improve. PRACTICE IS IMPORTANT.