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Everyone's ear canal differs in size, shape, and color. Normally, the canal is skin-colored and has small hairs. Yellowish-brown earwax may be present. The eardrum is a light-gray color or a shiny pearly-white. Light should reflect off the eardrum surface.
Ear infections are a common problem, especially with small children. A dull or absent light reflex from the eardrum may be a sign of a middle ear infection or fluid. The eardrum may be red and bulging if there is an infection. Amber liquid or bubbles behind the eardrum are often seen if fluid collects in the middle ear.
An external ear infection may be present if the ear canal is red, tender, swollen, painful when wiggling or pulling on the outer ear, or if the canal is filled with yellowish-green pus.
Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:
Murr AH. Approach to the patient with nose, sinus, and ear disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders; 2007:chap 452.
Couch ME. History, physical examination, and the preoperative evaluation. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund VJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 8.
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