Looking for the best otoscope? We'll help you find the right one for your needs and budget – and then help you find where to buy it at the best price.
The ear can tell you a lot about your state of health, and the otoscope is the tool to help do that. You can choose from traditional optical devices to help peer into someone else’s ear, or one with a digital camera which makes self-examination possible. Whether you’re worried about ear-wax or ear infections, yourself, your kids or your pets, there is a tool for you.
An otoscope is used to view into the ear canal, past the sicilian hairs which keep dirt out, to give a view of the ear drum (or tympanic membrane). A light in the device will illuminate the drum and a cone of light should be reflected from a healthy taught ear drum. Beyond that lie the Ossicle bones and nerves – not somewhere to push a camera, so these devices must be used with care.
The classic otoscope, which you might remember from visiting the doctor, tend to feature a light and lens with about 3x of magnification. More modern alternatives are more like a borescope (opens in new tab), a favorite tool of DIY enthusiasts. We cover these inspection cameras (opens in new tab) in a separate guide, but suffice to say it’s best to use a different tool on your ears than the one you use for sticking down the drain to recover a dropped wedding ring!
Best otoscopes in 2022(opens in new tab)
The great thing about this device is the ability to inspect your own ear as well as others since the screen is not even connected. This is a distinctly ‘second generation’ of personal otoscope, with a 5 megapixel endoscope-like camera which is just 3mm in diameter, surrounded by 6 LEDs (which can be adjusted for brightness in steps). Lag is a slight issue, as is having the coordination to adjust your ear to get a clear, but once you master it you can attach one of the many tiny scoop-like tools to conduct your own earwax cleaning. Only the lens is IP67 waterproof for cleaning, but that is enough, and the focal length is 1.5-2cm (closer than earlier otoscopes). The tidy design of the case impresses, as does the picture quality; the only real complaint is an app must be installed first!(opens in new tab)
There’s little need to invest too heavily on a home otoscope if all you’re looking for is a tool to sit in the first aid drawer and – if called for – allow you to quickly check an ear. That’s why this Bysameyee is essentially just an LED torch with an otoscope adapter, and some other accessories. Two AAA batteries live inside the stainless steel tube, likely providing all the power you’ll need for the device’s lifetime, though you might find that it needs a bit of a shake to get the power flowing because of the dubious quality. On the plus side, as well as ear speculums a tongue depressor is included so you can use this light for checking the throat, another area which will reveal signs of infection.(opens in new tab)
If you want the best (and are prepared to pay for it), then this isn’t quite it – the top-of-the-line Welch Allyn otoscopes cost more than a $500. This is a chance to get in on the same brand used by an overwhelming number of US medical practitioners without quite burning as big a hole in the pocket. That makes sense if you’re not planning on using it as much, or you’re a medical student. There is, of course, a metaphorical price to pay; while the device has good consistent halogen illumination, cool and unobstructed thanks to fibre-optic design, the device – and especially the switch – just don’t feel quite as tough as the truly professional models. Similarly you’ll have to swap traditional AA batteries from time to time rather than drop it in the charger. That said, this is definitely one step closer to the device your practitioner uses, even if it isn’t actually the same.(opens in new tab)
Sold to vets and pet lovers looking to keep an eye on their pets, this device has a pleasingly retro feel thanks to the metal engraved to give the user a firm grip; good-looking and functional. The three polypropylene speculars (the pointy end) can be sterilized in an autoclave (medical washing machine), making this ideal for regular use. The brightness is adjustable thanks to the rheostat at the top of the handle, which is easily manipulated with the thumb. Furthermore, the magnifying power is 4x, putting it ahead of some others available. Perhaps it’s a shame the storage box is plastic – somehow it feels like it deserves engraved wood – and, seriously, who uses ‘C’ batteries any more? Those are both minor niggles though.(opens in new tab)
Some find themselves wanting to clean their ears more than others. Users of Airpods and other ear buds are well advised to keep the wax under control, for example. The M9 provides the same tech seen in many other ear cleaning cameras, but instead of supplying a few accessories in tubes, there is a large ball-like accessory base and charger which the wireless camera can easily be dropped in, and perhaps stored near the toothbrush cup. Use still requires the installation of an app (iOS or Android) to see the camera’s feed, but at 100MHz and with digital stabilization the image is reasonably easy to use on yourself and with 17 accessories you’ll not be wanting.(opens in new tab)
If you’ve ever thought the best solution to cleaning your ears was a tiny robot arm, then this is the device for you; the Bebird Note3 Pro might have a name that sounds distinctly Samsung, but this isn’t a phone – it’s a wi-fi otoscope, similar to the M9 which also makes this list). The unique addition is a new tool to the usual array – tiny robot tweezers – which give more precise mechanical control within the ear. Clamping and releasing is done via the app, which seems strange at first, but a button in the arm might make it hard to hold steady. Nevertheless this is an exciting option to have, and for some with tricky dry wax or clipping it offers a choice others simply don’t (even if the average hair will not be pulled by them).
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