Many of us are probably familiar with the pneumatic otoscope. This is the device that many doctors use to be able to check the ears of patients. This tool is as essential to most doctors as a stethoscope, and patients have come to know it as the device that virtually every physician will use to check the ears to make sure that there is no obstruction or infection that may be visible to the physician.
The Contents of the Pneumatic Otoscope
Surprisingly, while so essential, there is not a whole lot that goes into making up this device. There are two primary areas to the otoscope: the head piece and the handle. In the head there is a lens, a light source, and a nipple that is used for attachment if the physician wants to add rubber tubing or an additional bulb. The head is designed in such a way that the speculum can easily fit into the patient’s ear, or auditory canal. When this occurs, an air tight chamber is created. This then removes out any outside source of light that may distort or obstruct the vision of the physician as he or she views into the ear.
The light and the lens are the essential pieces of the otoscope itself. These are used to provide the magnification so that the doctor can make a thorough examination of the ear canal. The light on the otoscope is the only source that illuminates the ear canal. Some otoscopes come with a setting that increases the magnification of the lens, but the vast majority contain only one magnification setting.
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The handle contains the battery chamber as well as the on-off switch. You will also find a clip that allows the doctor to clip the tool to the doctor’s pocket. These are usually made of a very sturdy material to handle the wear and tear that goes with moving form patient to patient.
A large number of pneumatic otoscopes contain a rubber bulb to them. When this is squeezed it changes the angle of the eardrum so that the doctor can get a view from different angles. This is a very handy addition to this device that can apply both positive and negative pressure without causing any harm to the ear canal or to the eardrum, or cause the patient any discomfort at all.
What Is Needed for the Device to Work
There are two primary things that are needed to make sure that the device will work properly. These are the otoscopes bulb and the speculum tip that comes with rubber rings. This helps to create the proper seal so outside light cannot get in.
The Primary Uses of the Pneumatic Otoscope
The main reason that a physician would use this device is for diagnosing acute otitis media or other medical conditions where there is a restriction of some kind so that the tympanic membrane is limited in its normal mobility. This includes otitis media with effusion.
Procedure for Use of the Device
While doctors have long been the primary users of this device, the truth is that many mothers and fathers are using them now as well. They are finding that they would like to be able to check and make sure that their children are doing well, and so standard checks like this are becoming part of their routine. In addition, many moms and dads are getting that they can diagnosis their child before taking him or her to the doctor, thus saving the need to go if they see no issues, or taking them right away if something is noticed that should be taken care of right away.
The procedure for using the device is quite simple. Here are the methods to follow:
- You would begin by inserting the tip of the otoscope into the ear canal. What you first want to make sure of is that there is a seal that is created that will not let outside light in. if you find that you are not able to get a proper seal then make sure that you use one of the rubber tubing tips.
- What you want to look for is the tympanic membrane landmarks. Three of the bigger ones are the cone light malleus, reflex and umbo.
- To make sure that you are able to check the mobility of the membrane, you want to apply a small amount of pressure or remove pressure to see if it moves simply. Do this very gently to ensure that you don’t cause any discomfort for your child.
- If the membrane moves easily then you know you have no fluid along the membrane. Fluid being present removes the easy mobility of the membrane.
Understanding the Results
From the procedure you will be able to make some quick assumptions about what may be wrong. Watching the movement of the membrane will tell you if there is an issue. If the membrane shows limited mobility than you are aware that a fluid buildup is likely. This can be caused by some kind of issue with the sinus canals or by damage to the ear canal itself. If you notice this then you want to have your child looked at right away.
Redness or swelling are also indictors of an issue. If you notice that there is swelling then do not apply pressure to the membrane. This will only cause further irritation.
A good idea is to check the membrane and ear canal when your child is completely well. Know what a healthy ear looks like so you will have a place of reference to work from when you are needing to know if there is an issue.
Key Brands to Look into
There are many great brands that offer these devices. Welch Allyn has one of the most familiar names when it comes to pneumatic otoscopes, but they are not the only ones. Karl Storz and Riester both have great brands. Price can range from $50 to $350. The pricier the cost the more accessories you usually get with it.