Differences Between an Ophthalmoscope and an Otoscope

November 12, 2012

Differences Between an Ophthalmoscope and an Otoscope

The main difference between an ophthalmoscope and an otoscope is that the former device helps your doctor check out your eyes and the latter helps check out your ears or your nose. The best way to remember the difference is that “ophthal” is the prefix used not only for ophthalmoscopes but for ophthalmologists. This strange word was derived from an ancient Greek word, “opthalmos,” which means “eye.”

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to remember what an otoscope does. Another name for an otoscope is auriscope. “Au” is also used in words related to sound, such as “audible.” But to mentally go through all of the stepes to connect an otoscope to sound may be more difficult to remember than just cracking open a medical dictionary.

End Shape

Remember the sonic screwdriver used in the hit science-fiction television series “Doctor Who”? Both the otoscope and the ophthalmoscope strongly resemble this gadget. They are long wand-shaped objects with a knob on top. Sometimes they are portable and sometimes they are connected by a cord to a wall. The knob is the most important part of the device that acts somewhat like a magnifying lens. The long wand is a handle.

The otoscope’s top has one smooth end and one pointy end. The pointed end goes into your ear or nostril while your doctor looks through the smooth end. Ophthalmoscopes lack a pointy end Рwhich is a good thing or it might damage your eyes. At no time should wither of these devices be connected to your eye. It also can be portable or connected to a wall.

Special Extras

An ophthalmoscope usually has a small light built inside of it. This is because eye exams are best done in a dark room so the eye doctor can see the tiny details of your eyes that can be covered over by regular light. But the eye doctor cannot check your eyes out in complete darkness. Shining a small light into your eyes while sitting in a dark room is the easiest way for your doctor to check out the interior of your eyes.

Some otoscopes do include lights, but many do not. The ear or nasal canal can be easily seen in normal room light. But some otoscopes have a special feature that ophthalmoscopes lack – an ability to produce a small puff of air. Why would a doctor want that? This helps test your tympanic membrane – better known as the eardrum. Because the otoscope connects with your ears or nose, there is always a disposable cover on the device.

Where They Are Found

Are you curious to see what is inside the ear canal or up a nostril? Well, wonder no more because there are small, affordable otoscopes designed for the layperson. After looking through these, you begin to dream about earwax.

Alas, there are no ophthalmoscopes available for the layperson. These are fabulously expensive devices that sometimes require extra lenses in order to best view the interior of the eye. Unlike an otoscope, you really need training to learn how to use one without injuring someone.

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