As an audiologist, I often get asked about ear cameras and tools that can be purchased online. It's no secret that the internet has made it easy to find all kinds of products, including those related to ear cleaning. However, when it comes to something as sensitive as our ears, it's important to consider the safety of any tool before using it. Those spiral ear tools are popular on TikTok, but can come with some serious injuries to the ear canal. So which tools are best to use? In this article, I'll be reviewing the top ear camera tools and what to know about safety.
Why use an ear camera?
You may wonder why you need an ear camera in the first place. Well, an ear camera can help you see inside your ear canal and detect any abnormalities. Sometimes patients come into the clinic for an ear cleaning only to be told that their ears are already clear of wax or have only minimal ear wax. Inspecting your ears gives you a sense of whether it's worth it to book an appointment. While ear cleaning tools can help, they won't clear wax that is dry and fully occluding the ear canal. This type of ear wax is usually dark brown or black and may have adhered to the skin in the ear canal. In that case, it's best to see a professional. Earwax that is soft and yellow to orange in color is safer to work with, when using the proper precautions.
These tools can also help you clean your ears if you're experiencing excess earwax build-up. However, it's important to note that the use of an ear camera should always be done with caution. Using one of these tools without caution and care, can cause serious damage to your ear canal and even lead to hearing loss.
What to consider when it comes to safety
When considering safety, three critical factors come to the forefront: employing the correct technique, using appropriate tools, and knowing when to consult a professional. Proper technique is vital to avoid inadvertent damage to sensitive ear structures. This involves gentle insertion of the camera and avoiding forceful movements. The right tools are equally important; ensure your ear camera has adequate lighting, a safe, smooth end, and a magnification feature. It should also be clean and sanitized before use. Finally, it's essential to recognize when professional help is required. If you notice significant ear pain, drainage, or abnormalities such as lumps or growths, immediately seek a professional’s opinion. Remember, ear cameras can be a useful tool for preliminary checks, but they no way replace the expertise of a trained medical professional.
Here are some tips to prevent damage or discomfort to the ear:
- Be gentle and go slow. Take your time when examining the ear.
- If examining another person's ear, such as a child, use proper bracing technique. Rest your pinky and other fingers firmly on the head while using the tool, this way if the person flinches, you'll protect the tool from hitting the ear canal or going too deep.
- If anything hurts, stop. If there is any discomfort when using the tool, stop immediately.
Top Four Products
After scouring the internet for the best ear camera tools available, here are my top four picks:
Best for Kids
1. SmartCheck Digital Otoscope
Designed by the creators of Children's Tylenol, the SmartCheck™ Digital Ear Scope stands out as an excellent tool for kids. It comes with easy-to-follow instructions, making it user-friendly for those unfamiliar with otoscopes. This device is paired with a smartphone to record real-time images or videos of the eardrum, which can then be shared with your healthcare provider – a handy feature especially when your child is unwell. Though it may require some practice to get accustomed to, the step-by-step guidance provided makes the process much smoother and comfortable.
Best Budget Otoscope
2. Anykit Digital Otoscope
Anykit Digital Otoscope: This device offers a clear view of the eardrum with attention to safety. It also has an ergonomic design for easy use and attaches to your Smartphone. Using the included speculum is a safer way to look into the ear canal without injuring the ear canal or causing discomfort.
Best Hands-free Option
3. MS500 Digital Otoscope With Screen
MS500 Digital Otoscope With Screen comes with a scope and a camera screen. For those who need to have access to their phone for work, have a cracked phone screen, or don't have a Smartphone, this is a great option. The camera allows adjustment for a clear view of the ear canal and comes with a portable kickstand, so you won't need to hold the device while using the scope.
Best Modern Design
4. Teslong NTE100I DIGITAL EAR CAMERA
The Teslong NTE100I Digital Ear Camera is a versatile tool compatible with both Android and iPhone devices, making it a top choice for many. This device not only allows you to clearly visualize the inside of your ear, but it also enables you to record and save photos and videos for future reference or for sharing with your healthcare provider. One of its standout features is the adjustable light setting, which allows you to manipulate the illumination for optimum visibility of the eardrum. This feature, coupled with its universal compatibility, makes it a valuable tool for initial home-based ear health checks.
Are these tools good?
A recent study published in Sage Journals supports the potential value of these tools when used correctly. The researchers found that doctors were able to accurately diagnose ear pathologies using a smartphone otoscope in 82-88% of cases. This suggests that, under professional guidance, such devices can be a powerful tool for identifying and monitoring ear-related health issues. While the average person using these tools is not a medical professional, the good news is that they still have the potential to be a helpful tool in spotting signs of health concerns.
Ear camera tools can be incredibly useful for detecting ear abnormalities and cleaning excess earwax. However, it's important to prioritize safety when using any kind of tool related to your hearing health. Always consult your audiologist before using any new device, and only use ear cameras that have a positive safety rating. The four ear camera tools reviewed in this blog post are all safe and effective, making them great options for hearing aid consumers looking to keep their ears clean and healthy.