How to perform Otoscopy

Reading Time: 5 minutes
by Amplivox
Published 21/11/2022

What is an otoscope?

The otoscope consists of a light, a magnifying lens, and a funnel-shaped viewing piece with a narrow, pointed end called a speculum. The light beam is shined through the otoscope into the ear canal. 

Otoscopy can be performed via manual or digital otoscopes. A manual otoscope can be used alone as the optic and the light source are within one handheld unit. A digital otoscope still provides the components in a handheld unit, but the image of the ear is displayed on a screen. This has additional benefits as it allows the user to photograph and document the otoscopy, or even show the image live to the patient.

What is otoscopy?

Before conducting audiometry, tympanometry or any other procedure on the ear, a clinician will often conduct otoscopy. Otoscopy is a clinical procedure used to examine structures of the ear, particularly the External Auditory Canal (EAC), Tympanic Membrane (TM), and to a lesser degree – provide an indication of the status of the Middle Ear (ME). Clinicians use an otoscope during routine wellness physical exams and the evaluation of specific ear complaints.

Why is otoscopy important?

In an ideal test scenario, the ear canal is free and unblocked to allow acoustic energy (sound) and applied air pressure to transmit to the tympanic membrane and through the middle ear to the inner ear.

In the testing environments mentioned, ‘an ideal’ scenario is not always the case. Obstacles can be found in the ear canal, like ear wax build-ups, skin debris, fluids such as pus or foreign bodies.

Otoscopy not only helps to check that the path to the eardrum is clear, but also gives an excellent overview of the general condition of the ear canal and tympanic membrane to identify abnormalities such as a perforated eardrum, middle ear effusion, swelling or redness of the ear canal, infection or others.

How is otoscopy performed?

Otoscopy is performed by inserting the speculum into the patient’s ear and moving it in different directions to observe the condition of the EAC and TM. The clinician will gently pull the pinna upward and backward to straighten the ear canal. This process will move the acoustic meatus in line with the canal to make it easier to observe landmarks within the ear and the overall health condition of the EAC and TM. This is a quick and painless process and an essential part of an auditory examination.



The British Society of Audiology (2022). Recommended Procedure – Ear Examination [Online]. Accessible at: