Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Does earwax lose its pathogens on your auriscope overnight?

BMJ 1992; 305 doi: (Published 19 December 1992) Cite this as: BMJ 1992;305:1571
  1. A. Overend,
  2. W. W. Hall,
  3. P. G. Godwin
  1. Airedale General Hospital, Keighley, West Yorkshire.


    OBJECTIVES--To describe the organisms cultured from general practitioners' auriscope earpieces; and to explore general practitioners' perceptions of the possibility of cross infection from contaminated auriscope earpieces and of how their auriscope earpieces are cleaned. DESIGN--Microbiological survey of auriscope earpieces in two general practices and a semistructured questionnaire sent to 105 general practitioners. SETTING--General practitioners served by one district general hospital microbiology laboratory in the north of England. RESULTS--Organisms were cultured from 41 (93%) of 44 auriscope earpieces, of which 14 (32%) carried potential pathogens; four (9%) were heavily contaminated. Of the 85 (81%) general practitioners who responded, 72 (85%) believed that contaminated auriscope earpieces could cause serious infection, 66 (78%) did not clean earpieces between patients, and 70 (82%) thought that patients would mind if they knew that dirty earpieces were used. CONCLUSIONS--Almost a third of auriscope earpieces were contaminated by pathogenic bacteria. Although general practitioners suspected this, most did not ensure that a clean earpiece was used for each patient.