Health and medical experts weigh in on whether ear thermometers are the right tools for your ears.
In a new survey, the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery (AOAHS) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) both found that ear thermometry can be beneficial for hearing loss.
According to the AOAHS, the ear thermogram is “the most widely used and accurate tool in the ear exam” and is “extremely helpful in diagnosing hearing loss, particularly in patients with acute otitis media.”
However, the AOA says that the ear is a “critical organ” for hearing, and that the “ear thermometer is not a panacea for hearing problems.”
“Ear thermometers provide no direct diagnosis, but can be used to provide an accurate, comprehensive view of hearing,” the AOs survey states.
“Ear thermometry is most effective in people who have significant hearing loss and/or are experiencing significant hearing impairment.”
The AOA says that ear temperature can be recorded by a device that is connected to the ear, and “is often the most reliable method for measuring hearing loss.”
However you choose to measure ear temperature, it’s important to remember that ear temperatures are “not necessarily the best gauge of ear size or shape.”
According to AOA, ear thermography “does not provide a reliable measure of ear length,” and can also “lead to inaccurate measurements of ear circumference.”
The American Academy’s report on ear thermographs also says that while ear thermograms can provide “a useful indication of ear canal size,” it’s “not an accurate way to evaluate ear shape, or ear length.”
“A ear thermograph cannot provide an exact measure of a person’s ear size, but it can provide a general idea of ear shape,” the survey states, adding that “even an accurate measurement of an ear can be misleading because it cannot accurately determine ear shape.”
In an attempt to provide more accurate information, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people to only use ear thermimeters that are “designed to provide a precise measurement of ear temperature,” and not a “general measure.”
However that doesn’t mean ear thermometers are not useful.
According the CDC, ear temperature is “one of the most accurate and reliable indicators of hearing loss” and “can provide a reasonable basis for estimating hearing loss in adults and children.”
The CDC recommends that patients with mild to moderate hearing loss use ear thermal sensors “when hearing is impaired, when the hearing is clear and clear is more than adequate, when hearing is significantly impaired, and when there are other possible causes of hearing impairment.
The ear thermometric device can also be used for patients with moderate hearing impairment, or when hearing loss is present for a longer period of time than the patient’s average hearing time.”
According the AOOA, ear temperatures “may provide an estimate of the ear canal’s diameter and shape.”
However, it also says ear temperatures may not be the best indicator of ear diameter and “are not a good indication of the volume of the ears.”
The study also says, “If ear thermographies cannot be used because the ear has not been used to measure its temperature, use of a thermometer can provide an indication of whether the ear may have been affected by a virus or other cause.”
However it’s not all bad news for ear thermology.
According a survey conducted by the National Auditory Medical Association (NAMA), “Ear temperatures can be useful in determining ear canal length.”
According to the report, ear thermal temperatures can help determine ear circumference and determine whether a person has an ear infection.
“Ear temperatures provide an excellent method of determining the volume and shape of the external auditory canal,” the NAMA report states.
However, the report also notes that ear thermal measurements “are less reliable than measurements from ear radiographs.”