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Ear Examinations, the information you need

Also known as otoscopy or auriscopy, an ear examination involves the screening of the ear by a medical practitioner. There are a number of factors that may necessitate this procedure or it may be carried out along with other routine physical checkups. Some of the reasons to pay the doctor a visit may include pain, loss of hearing, lump, discharge or presence of an object in the ear. The symptoms are, however, not limited to this list. The following is the information you need to know regarding the procedure.

The purpose of an ear examination

Ear examinations will be done if you currently or previously have experienced problems such as chronic infections of the ear, injury to the head or punctured eardrum.

How the ear examination is performed

To have a clear view of the eardrum and the ear canal, the otoscope is used in a certain way by the healthcare provider. How the ear is moved during the procedure is slightly different in babies who are 12 months old and below than it is in older people. In this group of babies, the ear canal is straightened by pulling the ear down and outwards. If you or your child is older, the same is achieved by pulling back the ear and slightly straightening it up. The pointed end of the instrument is then inserted into the ear. It is moved gently into the ear, taking care not to irritate the lining of the canal. The doctor then takes a look at the eardrums by use of the pneumatic otoscope. This enables him/her to view the appearance of each of the eardrums. The instrument reveals the movements due to pressure changes in the ear canal.

How much does an ear examination cost?

The cost of otoscopy varies from one health facility to another. It is therefore important to compare the costs of the procedure at the different healthcare providers located near your area.

How you’ll feel during the procedure

You should expect to feel completely no pain while an otoscope is used to examine your ear. This means that if you feel any pain, then your ear is most likely infected.

Are there any associated risks?

The speculum of the otoscope is pointed and may cause an irritation of the ear canal lining. To avoid this, the doctor should ensure that the instrument is put in carefully and slowly. In an uncommon case in which the ear canal lining is scrapped, there could be an infection or bleeding. Also, if the same otoscope is used on many patients without proper cleaning, an infection may be transmitted.

The meaning of the test results

The normal ear canal takes the colour of your skin. On the other hand, the colour range for a normal eardrum is pearly white to light grey. This means that if your eardrum is normal, it should be able to reflect light. The wax present in the ear may also take the brown or yellow colour and is completely harmless. With these, the doctor will conclude that you have a healthy ear. Otherwise, the ear may have an infection.
Otoscope exam in progress

What next if the results are abnormal?

If a part of either your outer, middle or inner ear is infected or abnormal, an appropriate treatment will be recommended. Each condition diagnosed will require its own specific method of treatment.


It is very necessary that you go for an ear examination routinely even if there is no problem you’ve noticed in the recent past. This is especially very important to children as they are commonly affected by ear problems.