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. 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, a favorite tool of DIY enthusiasts. We cover those 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 2021
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. Teslong provide a 1 megapixel endoscope-like camera, surrounded by 6 LEDs (which can be adjusted for brightness in steps). Sold under the Anykit brand in some markets, the camera is powered via the cable connecting it to the rechargeable Wi-Fi base, and an app connects to that in turn (conveniently at QR code on the back means you don’t need to worry about losing the manual, but setup could still be easier). Lag is an issue, as is having the coordination to adjust your ear to get a clear view (with a 2-3cm focal length you won’t be pushing far into the ear), but once you master it you can attach a tiny scoop and conduct your own earwax cleaning.
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.
It would be perfectly sensible for a student to pick a professional diagnostic tool, perhaps like the Welch Allyn one below. But it can be cheaper and – depending on your needs – more useful to use a device with a monitor and the ability to save images for later discussion. With a 5-inch monitor (1080p) plugged straight into the 2 megapixel 3.9mm probe there is no faffing with apps, and no wi-fi latency. The viewer can also store images directly to the supplied MicroSD card and pause the view with the touch of a button. The price is home-user friendly, so not too troubling to students either.
If you want the best (and are prepared to pay for it), this is it. Welch Allyn are a respected brand in the medical equipment world, and this device reflects that; rather than spattered LEDs a 360˚ ring of light from a halogen bulb illuminates the inner ear and can be adjusted naturally with an analogue rheostat dimmer. A wide angle lens provides a whopping 25˚ field of view and there is a focus wheel and a port to blow air down to vibrate the ear. The ophthalmoscope attachment makes eye examination similarly easy with a large field of view and 6 focusable filters. Each head is just popped on and off the handle which houses the switch and rechargeable battery. This set is available in a variety of different kits, to suit your needs and budget.
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 a matt finish, though despite the sheen it’s still easy to grip. The three brass 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 iseasily 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, but those are both minor niggles.
Capable of capturing images of 2048 x 1536 (3 megapixels) through the 3.9mm (0.15 inch) probe, this device has both detail and the camera probe compact enough for kids. An extra boost when working with kids is the gyro digital stabilization which – while it won’t completely overcome the issue of digital lag, nor, of course, subdue a skeptical infant, does make life easier. It’s a shame to only have 3 brightness settings (cycled with the button on the body), but it is convenient to have USB charging rather than disposable batteries. Also included with the pack are 2 alcohol cleaning pads (obviously you’ll need more to keep it clean in the long run) and 3 detachable ear picks which – if you can master the art – can be used to clean your own ear. Software generally OK, but sometimes a re-start is needed.