Otoscope Types

Types of Otoscopes

Otoscopes may be categorized in one of three types: 1) pocket, 2) full-size, and 3) video. Pocket otoscopes were intentionally designed to fit in a pocket and are lighter and less bulky than other otoscopes. When purchasing a pocket otoscope, both the head and the handle are included. While there are some exceptions, most pocket otoscope use alkaline batteries to power the handle. Full size otoscopes are more substantial in size and weight than pocket otoscopes. They are comprised of more sophisticated heads and handles that may be purchased individually since those components tend to be interchangeable even amongst different brands. Unlike pocket and full size otoscopes, video otoscopes are specifically designed to interface with a computer or monitor to project, capture, store, and email high quality images and/or video. If you need help trying to decide what is right for you, check out and compare the different options in our Find Your Perfect Pocket, Full Size or Video Otoscope sections of our website. 


lights source technology

Light Source Technology

The light source of an otoscopes relates to the type of technology integrated into the bulb as well as the manner in which the light source is illuminated. Currently, otoscope bulbs range from Halogen, Xenon or LED with the older incandescent bulbs rarely seen. As illustrated in the table below, bulbs may be quantified according to illumination brightness, color and burn. Halogen bulbs are bright and give off a bluish-white color. These bulbs also are considered fairly cool as they do not generate much heat during illumination. In contrast, Xenon bulbs are a little brighter, emit more of a white light, and burn warmer than Halogen. The LED bulbs burn the brightest and whitest while staying cool during use. In some cases, otoscopes offer the option of upgrading from a Halogen to an LED bulb without requiring the purchase of a completely new otoscope. Read more about otoscope upgrades at A.U. Bankaitis's Audiology Blog


The manner in which an otoscope directs the light source will involve direct illumination or fiber-optic technology.  Otoscopes utilizing direct illumination (or non-fiber optic technology) must have the bulb located above the floor of the eyepiece so that the light can be directed through the speculum's opening. In contrast, fiber optic technology delivers the bulb's light via fiber optic bundles located around the perimeter of otoscope head where the speculum is attached. The advantage of fiber optic technology is that it provides a completely unobstructed view through the lens since the bulb can be located below of the floor of the eyepiece. To see the difference between the available light source technologies, watch this informative Otoscope Comparison QuickFlick


battery technology

Battery Technology

Otoscopes are either battery operated or hardwired. Hardwired otoscopes are usually part of a wall-mounted diagnostic set. Depending on the size, battery operated otoscopes typically require alkaline (usually AA or C) or rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable otoscopes may be recharged by plugging the handle of the device into a standard wall socket. Other rechargeable handles require a specific charging stand. Full size rechargeable otoscope handles will be powered by one of three battery types: 1) Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), 2) Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or 3) Lithium Ion (Li-Ion). The main difference between the NiCad and NiMH battery is that the NiMH battery maintains twice the capacity than a NiCad battery.  In other words, you can use the NiMH handle longer without it weighing any more than a NiCad handle. Just like the NiMH battery, the Li-Ion battery maintains about 50% more capacity than a NiCad battery although the Li-Ion battery will weigh about 35% less than both NiCad and NiMH batteries. Unlike the NiCad battery, both the NiMH and Li-Ion batteries are not subject to the memory effect. Also, the NiMH and Li-Ion batteries do not contain heavier materials like Cadmium or Mercury and considered more environmentally friendly than NiCad. For these reasons, expect to pay more for a NiMH or Li-Ion otoscope handle than a NiCad handle.