Otoscopy (visual inspection of the outer ear)

One of the first skills acquired by audiologists is that of inspecting the outer ear (otoscopy). Otoscopy involves using a handheld light (freestanding or wall mounted) especially designed to enable the clinician to see the ear canal and the tympanic membrane. There is a light source and the end of the scope that allows for a mountable tip that helps focus the light into the narrow canal. These tips are known as specula and can be disposable or can be disinfected and reused. Audiologists are not the only ones who use this skill in assessing hearing. Hearing instrument specialists, pediatricians, general practitioners and ear nose and throat specialists are also trained in the use of the otoscope. One of  the techniques that we stress when teaching audiology students is the necessity of bracing when performing otoscopy. Bracing is the technique whereby the clinician, while inspecting the outer ear, uses the little finger of the hand holding the otoscope, placed against the patient’s head in order to avoid damage to the ear canal should the patient suddenly move.  It is very disheartening to see that many of the commercials on TV or even TV programs show otoscopy being performed WITHOUT the requisite bracing. Bracing will protect not only the patient from possible lacerations or abrasions of the outer ear canal, but also protect the clinician from possible litigation.

2 comments on “Otoscopy (visual inspection of the outer ear)

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