What Are Doctors Looking For When They Look In Your Ears?

A reader asked me the question:
What are doctors looking for when they look in your ears on exam?
Looking inside your ears is part of a routine history and physical examination doctors perform on their patients.    Of course, the easy answer  for why doctors are looking in your ears is to first answer the question:
What self respecting doctor would bother to look in someone's ears?  
If your doctor does decide they are going to look in your ears, they  are really just wanting to know if the light passes all the way through. If it doesn't, then they usually refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor for an HEENT exam, especially if your doctor is a cardiologist.    Just kidding.

The real answer is to make the patient think they are actually doing something important.  Since you, the patient,  can't see inside your own ears, you'll never be able to second guess anything  your doctor says about the ear exam, even if your doctor is a cardiologist.    If they tell you you have an ear infection and you need to take an antibiotic, who are you to second guess them.  It's not like you can tell anyway.  Plus, looking inside your ears allows the doctor to up-code your visit.  Now, aren't you happy you asked?  

Tired of me yet?  The real reason doctors look in your ears is to see if there are any signs of inflammation.  Your outer ear is connected to your ear canal, which is connected to your ear drum and the rest of your middle ear.  Inflammation, drainage, redness, pus, perforated ear drum, tumors, ear wax and occasionally bugs and small rodents  can be seen in your ear with specialized ear looking equipment. 

Now, aren't you glad you asked?  If you hear voices in your head, you'd better head quick to your doctor to make sure there isn't a mouse hiding out in there!

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