Is Ear Thermometer Accurate


The ear thermometer, also called aural thermometer, is a new product for measuring the temperature of a person. It works on the principle of absorbing the heat of eardrum through infrared light. It’s very easy, place the thermometer in the ear, press the button, wait for the beep and check the reading. The question is, are they accurate enough to rely on? The researches conducted suggest there is a slight variation which is not to worry in the cases of Adult. The children, however, have a totally different treatment with a change in even one degree Fahrenheit level.

Research Finding

Many researchers worked on the accuracy of ear thermometers for adults by comparing the reading with rectal thermometers – the most accurate of all thermometers till now. There were differences of one degree on either side which is not a problem when a patient is a mature person.

In the case of a child, 1 degree is more than enough to start a treatment. Some conclude that ear thermometers shouldn’t be used while others say measurement should be taken from both ears to get an accurate body temperature. Also, the temperature can be confirmed by just looking at the kid as the mere face tells the whole story if he/she needs a treatment or not.

Problems Due To Inaccuracy

The problems due to the slight inaccuracy and variation aren’t severe in the cases of adults but as you go for a small child or an infant, it’s very critical. The reason is that the difference is from 1 to 2 degrees which is big enough in the case of a toddler as it truly changes the course of treatment and severity of disease from a casual one to very critical in which the baby needs to be hospitalized.

When you have a child suffering from fever and you get different readings at a given point of time, the anxiety increases. Moreover, when you take readings from a digital ear thermometer and a rectal thermometer, they both give different scenarios.

The first one would give you picture that the child has a high fever or is normal and the second one would give you a normal fever reading – say 102 degrees. The confusion doesn’t help you in curing the children. Just think if it occurs at the clinic or the hospital, wherever you take him/her.

The child could overdose or it may be that doctor would say, “He/she’s normal”, while he/she isn’t. The result can be the side effect of the heavy medicine or the kid treatment gets prolonged, both increasing the suffering of your kid. Imagine, if it’s not a kid but a baby, things could be more devastating.

Why Incorrect Reading Occurs

The possible reason behind the inaccuracy of thermometers isn’t related to their make. It’s observed that it’s rather other factors like ear being infected, wax or other material inside the ear, external factors and the different ear structures of different people. As it’s a new technology, the problem behind its inaccuracy isn’t diagnosed yet.

Researchers are being carried out which suggest that ear wax lowers the reading while the ear infection doesn’t. The age of the patient is a very vital contribution towards it and research suggest that the children readings are more incorrect as compared with those of adults. One more reason concluded is that people aren’t fully aware on how to use the digital ear thermometer properly and where it should be positioned.

Avoid Errors

Standardizing products and procedures minimize the errors and takes the observed reading closer to accuracy. Use one model throughout the institution or/and during the course of treatment of the patient.

The thermometers need to be configured so that all have same settings. The way of using it should be same across the board. The readings should be maintained in proper with a proper marking that from which ear – left or right – the reading was taken.


There is a lot of debate going on concerning the ear thermometer for kids and adults. The suppliers and manufacturers claim that the product is very accurate but the way it’s used makes it inaccurate. Its users and influencers suggest not using it or taking multiple readings from both ears to come to a point.

Its preexisting substitute, rectal thermometer, is believed to be more accurate especially when the patient is a baby. The variation ranges from one to two degrees on both sides of the temperature when compared with oral or rectal thermometers.

This is very dangerous in the case of a small child. It’s still a new innovation and we can hope these issues would overcome in future products. The reviews of the newer products are showing that positive improvements are being done and one can conclude that we’re very close to the accurate digital ear thermometer.

Further Reading on Best Ear Thermometers