The best otoscope can help you spot infections and when ear wax build-up is becoming a problem. And you don't have to be a medical professional to use one, so they make a good addition to any home's medicine cabinet.
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). Beyond that lie the Ossicle bones and nerves – not somewhere to push a camera, so these devices must be used with care.
There are two types of otoscope to choose from: traditional optical ones, and ones that incorporate digital camera tech. The classic otoscope, which are typically used by 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. Some of these digitals otoscopes even allow you to examine your own ears, as well as others'.
Read on, as we reveal the best otoscopes on the market today, and give you the facts and figures to help you choose between them.
Best otoscopes in 2023
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The Vitcoco Otoscope is digital, and you need to install an app on your smartphone to use it. It come with a 5MP endoscope-like camera that's 3mm in diameter, surrounded by six LEDs, which can be adjusted for brightness. Best of all, you can inspect your own ear as well as those of others.
On the downside, lag is a slight issue, as is having the coordination to adjust your ear to get a clear view. 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, which is closer than earlier otoscopes. The tidy design of the case is great too, as is the picture quality.(opens in new tab)
If all you’re looking for is a tool to sit in the first-aid drawer, in case you quickly check an ear, there's no need to spend a lot of cash. And this is the best cheap otoscope we can recommend today.
The Bysameyee Otoscope is cheap for a reason: it's 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. A tongue depressor is also included, so you can use this light for checking throats as well as ears.(opens in new tab)
Premium otoscopes from Welch Allyn are commonly used by medical practitioners in the US, and typically cost more than a $500. That's going to be overkill for home use, and even medical students might struggle with this cost. In which case, the Welch Allyn Pocketscope Jr provides a good alternative, offering real professional quality at a much more affordable cost.
While it has good consistent halogen illumination, cool and unobstructed thanks to fibre-optic design, the device – and especially the switch – doesn’t feel quite as tough as the premium models. Plus, you’ll have to swap traditional AA batteries from time to time rather than drop it in the charger.(opens in new tab)
Want to keep an eye on your pet's ears? This device is both good-looking and functional, with engraved metal providing you with a firm grip. The three polypropylene speculars (the pointy end) can be sterilized in an autoclave (medical washing machine) too, 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 most rivals. 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 people need to clean their ears more than others. Users of AirPods and other ear buds, for instance, can find it particularly difficult to keep wax under control. The Bebird M9 Pro 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 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 like the idea of cleaning ears with a tiny robot arm, this is the device for you. The Bebird Note3 Pro is a Wi-Fi otoscope, similar to the Bebird M9 Pro at number 5 on this list. What this has, which the other device doesn't, are tiny robot tweezers, which give you 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.
As the name suggests, this otoscope is firmly aimed at concerned and responsible parents. This pocket-size, traditional-style otoscope is well made, featuring an optical quality glass lens with anti-scratch treatmen, a female insuflation outlet and the ability to add and remove a disposable specula. The LED gives off bright light, a battery is included, and the lens provides good magnification. All in all, this offers great value for the affordable price.
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