Jeremy S. Cook

When you think about a doctor’s kit, a stethoscope will normally come to mind, along with… some sort of light thing that is used to look into your ears. While you’ve perhaps never considered what this is, the device is called an otoscope and is used to take a glimpse into your ear canal. Like stethoscopes, these tools are fairly simple, consisting of a low-power magnifying glass, a light source, and a sort of “nozzle” that enables doctors to check things out.

Although simple, as medical-grade gadget, they can also be quite expensive, in the $400 range in fact. A quick search of Amazon will reveal a few less expensive options of dubious quality, but as described here, the Gila team has announced a clinical-grade open source otoscope that can be made for $5. This price blows away even “bargain” otoscopes, and it’s reportedly a Health Canada-licensed class 1 device. (If you’re wondering, the definition of such a device is found here.) This actually confuses the issue a bit as to whether class 1 devices are licensed, so if you’re a Canadian health professional, please chime in via the comments!

Definitions notwithstanding, the DIY otoscope seems like a really neat design, and works with Welch Allyn disposables (the little plastic cones that stick in your ear). Interestingly, as it’s open source, this can be adapted to different types of dispose-o-cones, allowing for use in different regions — or perhaps even adaptation into a new type of instrument altogether. You can see a short intro to the unit in the clip below, and a more detailed assembly video after that. Build files are available on GitHub if you’d like to create your own.

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