A home ear examination is a visual
inspection of the
ear canal and eardrum using an instrument called an
otoscope . An otoscope is a handheld instrument with a
light, a magnifying lens, and a funnel-shaped viewing piece with a narrow,
pointed end called a speculum.
A home ear examination can help
detect many ear problems, such as
ear infections, excessive
earwax, or an object in the ear canal.
After receiving instructions and training from a doctor,
home ear examinations can be helpful for parents of young children who
frequently get ear infections and earaches. Sometimes a child may have an ear
infection in which the only outward symptom may be fussiness, a fever, or
tugging at the ear. A home ear examination may help reveal the cause of these
symptoms. But it is challenging to learn to use an otoscope, so consultation
with a health professional is generally necessary.
Why It Is Done
A home ear examination may be done
- Look for signs of infection when a person has
an earache or when a young child has vague symptoms.
- Check for a
foreign object in the ear, such as an insect or a bean.
- Check for
earwax buildup when a person complains of hearing loss or of fullness or
pressure in the ear.
How To Prepare
No special preparation is needed
before having this test. Always remember to clean the ear speculum in hot,
soapy water before using it.
How It Is Done
If you are going to examine a young
child, have the child lie down with his or her head turned to the side, or have
the child sit on an adult's lap and rest his or her head on the adult's chest.
Older children or adults can sit with their head tilted slightly toward the
opposite shoulder. Sitting is the best position for identifying otitis media with effusion (fluid behind the eardrum).
largest viewing piece that will fit easily into the ear canal, and attach it to
If the person is only having problems with one ear,
examining the other ear first may make it easier to determine what is different
about the affected ear.
When checking the ear of a child older
than 12 months or an adult, hold the otoscope in one hand and use your free
hand to pull the outer ear gently up and back. This straightens the ear canal
and improves visualization. In babies younger than 12 months, gently pull the
outer ear down and back. See a picture of the
position of the otoscope during an ear examination.
insert the pointed end of the viewing piece into the ear canal while looking
into the otoscope. The sides of the ear canal can be quite sensitive, so try
not to put pressure on the ear canal. It may help to steady your hand on the
person's face so your hand moves along with their head in case they move