What is Pneumatic Otoscopy?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Pneumatic otoscopy is a procedure that is used to determine the current level of movement associated with an eardrum. The physician uses a device known as a pneumatic otoscope to observe the way the eardrum responds to changes in pressure. A procedure of this type is often employed when there is a suspicion of some type of infection or a collection of fluid in the middle ear.

The process of conducting a pneumatic otoscopy is a simple one that requires very little time. The head of the otoscope is placed in a position that allows the doctor to make use of a lens to get a clear view of the eardrum. Once the device is aligned properly, the small rubber bulb on the otoscope is depressed, created a small puff of air that enters the ear. This creates a change in pressure against the eardrum, and allows the physician to observe how the eardrum responds to the change in pressure.


If the pneumatic otoscopy reveals that the eardrum moves easily when the change in air pressure is created, that is a good indication that no fluid has collected in the middle ear. At the same time, the appearance of the eardrum will also help to indicate the presence of an infection that will require treatment in order to ease the sense of fullness in the ear and nasal passages that the patient is likely feeling. Because the pneumatic otoscopy takes only a few moments to perform and the results very easy to read, the doctor can make a diagnosis immediately and initiate the proper treatment.

The patient does not have to do anything in preparation for undergoing a pneumatic otoscopy. If there is a collection of excessive earwax, the physician will take steps to remove wax before beginning the procedure. This makes it much easier to have a clear view of the condition of the ear canal in general, and the eardrum in particular.

While the pneumatic otoscopy is in progress, it is imperative that the patient hold very still. Because the doctor is holding the otoscope in one hand and using the other hand to gently move the ear as necessary, patients often find it helpful to be lay flat on an examination table, with the head turned to allow easy access to the ear being tested. While the patient is likely to experience some discomfort when an infection is present, the otoscopy lasts for only a few moments, making it much easier to manage the pain until the test is completed. Once treatment for whatever is wrong with the ear is underway, the quick response to the medication usually makes the short period of pain during the otoscopy seem unimportant.


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