NAME: XLife otoscope
PRICE: Rs 1,299 (Amazon, Flipkart, Portronics)
It was pure coincidence that I developed an earache just when the device landed on my desk for a review. Unlike most run-of-the-mill products — headphones, smart watches and power banks — what arrived this time was a smart wireless Otoscope, which threw some light on my earache, helped me peer into my own ear, and examine the ear canal and eardrum.
According to the instruction manual, the device is “powerful enough to wirelessly stream a 360° high-definition view of your external acoustic meatus (ear canal) on your smartphone and a safe silicone scoop tip to help you clean out the usual/daily build-up of earwax”. It is a product of Portronics, one of the made-in-India companies that churn out innovative, digital and portable gadgets.
I took a look at the product brochure, which claims it is a “mini ear clinic” for family use and says “good to skip expensive ENT doctor visits for an ear clean-up”. Also, it urges buyers to get for their families “one of the safest and most hygienic ways to treat earwax build-up”
But the sceptic in me was not impressed by the tall claims. So I decided to crosscheck with Dr Probal Banerjee, a senior physician at Chittaranjan National Medical College, Calcutta. He also happens to be a radiologist with a specialisation in ultrasonography.
Classical otoscopes are devices that have been used by otolaryngologists for years. In the past few years, they have become more sophisticated. General practitioners — such as Dr Banerjee — and even trained healthcare providers use otoscopes to screen for illnesses during regular check-ups, as well as to investigate ear symptoms.
“An otoscope potentially gives a view of the ear canal and tympanic membrane or eardrum. Because the eardrum is the border separating the external ear canal from the middle ear, its characteristics can be indicative of various diseases of the middle ear space,” said Dr Banerjee. “The presence of earwax (cerumen), shed skin, pus, canal skin oedema, foreign bodies or ear diseases can obscure any view of the eardrum and thus severely compromise the value of the otoscopy done with a common otoscope. However, it may confirm the presence of obstructing symptoms.”
In his crowded hospital, Dr Banerjee occasionally uses a traditional ear otoscope that consists of a handle and a head. The head consists of a light source and a simple low-power magnifying glass. If he notices anything unusual, he refers the patient to the ENT department.
But a decade ago, when he’d served at remote rural health centres in northern Bengal, he didn’t have access to an otoscope. “I would peer into the eardrum with a torch and try to understand what’s happening,” he said. But after all, it’s a specialist’s job, so he’d often refer the patient to a specialist at a tertiary health centre.
When I showed him the smart wireless otoscope XLife, he was quite impressed. He downloaded the XLife App on his android phone and inserted the Q-tip of the otoscope into my ear. Immediately, the video image of my ear drum became visible and he was able to diagnose an infection. He prescribed an ear drop and in three days my earache disappeared.
Dr Banerjee’s verdict is that the XLife otoscope should be useful in rural healthcare centres where infrastructure is minimal. “There are places where you don’t have continuous power supply. You need inverters there and sometimes, even use traditional lanterns,” he said.
However, he warned that Q-tips aren’t recommended for it is a blind method and can push the wax further into the ear with a high possibility of damaging the eardrum. “It should not be used without proper medical supervision,” he added.
This completely wireless product comes with a 2.4GHz WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity for easily monitoring your ear via your smartphone, Android or iOS, using the XLife App. You may also save your video stream or capture photos to show to your ENT doctor later.
Backed by a 12-month warranty, Portronics XLife has an internal rechargeable battery (USB-C port for charging) which on a full charge offers a 30-minute playtime. At just 13g, the XLife is a great personal gadget that you can carry along everywhere, making it a smart addition to your personal care kit for your entire family.