The cold season usually brings colds. A higher body temperature signals that your body is fighting viruses and trying to expel bacteria. To measure your body temperature accurately, you should always have a thermometer handy. That's why an ear thermometer should never be missing from your own medicine cabinet.
If you want to buy a new ear thermometer, you should read our guide first. In our large ear thermometer test 2021 we present all the different thermometer models. This will give you all the information you need about ear thermometers and make it easier for you to decide what to buy.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important facts
- 3 The Best Ear Thermometer: Our Picks
- 4 Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an ear thermometer
- 4.1 What is an ear thermometer and how does it measure body temperature?
- 4.2 What are the advantages and disadvantages of an ear thermometer?
- 4.3 Which ear thermometer do I need?
- 4.4 How much do infrared ear thermometers cost?
- 4.5 How do I accurately measure the temperature in my ear with a thermometer?
- 4.6 Which manufacturers of ear thermometers are there?
- 5 Decision: What types of ear thermometers are there and which is the right one for you?
- 6 Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate ear thermometers
- 7 Facts worth knowing about taking a temperature and clinical thermometers for the ear
The most important facts
- Basically, a distinction is made between simple ear thermometers, forehead and ear thermometers and ear thermometers for babies.
- Key factors you should consider before buying are ergometry, quality, operating time, follow-up costs, accuracy and additional functions.
- If you are unsure about its use, you can and should always ask your GP or pharmacist for advice.
The Best Ear Thermometer: Our Picks
Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an ear thermometer
What is an ear thermometer and how does it measure body temperature?
More precisely, ear thermometers measure the infrared rays emitted by our eardrum. The temperature determined in this way then appears on the display and you can find out your core body temperature without any physical contact. This procedure differs from other clinical thermometers.
Taking a temperature in the ear is quite accurate because our eardrum is supplied with blood by the same vessels as our brain. It is also relatively easy to take your temperature in the ear because our ears are easily accessible and it only takes a few seconds to get your temperature.
Extra tip: The much-vaunted "cold calf compresses" to reduce fever are much more pleasant with warm water - the main effect comes from evaporation."
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an ear thermometer?
A clean measuring surface is very important for determining fever in the ear. Especially in the case of children, care should therefore be taken to ensure that earwax does not lead to incorrect temperature readings. You need a steady hand to operate ear thermometers, otherwise measurement inaccuracies may occur.
Conveniently, these thermometers do not need physical contact, so they can be used by relatives, parents and hospital staff to take body temperature quickly.
Incorrect measurements are also caused by the inaccurate placement of the probe, which must be pointed at the eardrum to give accurate results. However, there are already ear thermometers that signal when the device is placed in the right place, thus eliminating this source of error.
Rectal fever measurement is relatively uncomfortable for children as well as adults, and there is also a certain risk of injury if it is handled incorrectly. Inaccuracies can occur in oral fever measurement if children start talking during the measurement, reach for a drink or something edible.
In contrast, an ear thermometer is less scary for children because it does not require physical contact. It is also comfortable to use, children and adults can continue to talk, eat or play during the measurement.
Did you know that a measurement in the ear is marked with the most accurate result?
This measurement accuracy can be explained by the fact that the eardrum field has the same blood supply as the temperature control centre in the brain. However, this also requires proper handling.
Which ear thermometer do I need?
Before you buy one, you should think about who will be using the ear thermometer. Ear thermometers, which are also intended for small children, have different requirements than those for older people.
If there are younger children in the family and the ear thermometer is also intended for them, then you should pay particular attention to the size of the measuring tip when choosing a suitable device.
Children have a smaller ear canal than adults. There are also special ear thermometers for children, with a slightly luminous display, so that the temperature of small children can be measured at night without waking them up.
When choosing an ear thermometer, seniors should pay particular attention to the size of the display. Some devices have a temperature announcement. Especially those ear thermometers that indicate by a signal that they are positioned correctly are very suitable for seniors, because this makes the devices easier to use and avoids incorrect measurements.
There are ear thermometers especially for children and others for seniors. Therefore, before buying an ear thermometer, it is worth considering for whom it is intended.
If you are often prone to ear infections but do not want to do without an infrared thermometer, there are combination devices. Ear thermometers and forehead thermometers both use the same method of temperature measurement - infrared radiation.
So if you don't want to do without a non-contact fever gauge, then it makes sense to buy a device for temperature measurement that is suitable for both the forehead and the ear.
Stiftung Warentest has published several tests of fever measuring devices and before you buy an ear thermometer, it is worth reading independent tests. There are many models available at different prices, so it is helpful to do extensive research to find out which ear thermometers offer the best value for money.
How much do infrared ear thermometers cost?
While you can buy a digital thermometer for less than five euros in a discount store, most ear thermometers are only available for ten euros or more. In recent years, the prices for infrared thermometers have dropped significantly and the functions have increased.
Sanitas, for example, offers a multifunctional device for temperature measurement suitable for the ear and the forehead as well as for determining the temperature of devices and liquids for just under ten euros plus shipping costs.
Of course, you have to spend considerably more for the test winner among the ear thermometers from Braun. Braun ThermoScan 5 (IRT 6020) scored "very good" in the latest product tests by Stiftung Warentest. It comes with a wide range of functions, such as a preheated measuring tip, which is supposed to ensure an accurate measurement result.
A very practical function of the device is that it gives you a light signal and a beep as soon as you have positioned the measuring tip correctly over the eardrum. This function also avoids one of the most common sources of error when measuring fever in the ear.
Expensive does not necessarily mean better, but of course you should know before buying which functions are important to you, such as a signal tone, a temperature announcement or a night light. You should also make sure that the device is well made.
How do I accurately measure the temperature in my ear with a thermometer?
To take the measurement, pull the ear slightly upwards and to the side so that the ear canal is exposed. The probe must then be placed just above the eardrum. If you have problems with this, we recommend using an ear thermometer that helps you to determine the correct position, for example with a light or sound signal.
This is how you measure correctly:
- Put a clean protective cap on the device.
- Press the start button.
- The device will usually tell you when you can start measuring.
- Pull back the auricle. This will stretch the ear canal and give you a good view into the ear canal.
- For small children, pull the ear straight back. For older children and adults, pull the auricle upwards at an angle.
- Point the measuring tip at the eardrum.
- When you are sure that the device is correctly positioned, trigger the measurement process.
- The device will measure and give you a signal when it is finished.
- To ensure that you only use the protective cap once, it is best to remove it immediately.
Which manufacturers of ear thermometers are there?
Nuk, a manufacturer known for its baby and toddler products, also produces ear thermometers for babies and toddlers. However, there are many models and different manufacturers. Discounters such as Lidl also offer their own models for taking fever in the ear, as well as combined devices such as ear and forehead thermometers.
- Braun's ThermoScan range has usually performed very well in ear thermometer tests. Like all infrared thermometers, they are comfortable to use and have a wide range of functions. In terms of price, they are among the more expensive clinical thermometers. The ear thermometer 6520 from Braun offers a coloured scale with fever limits for all ages.
- Sanitas offers affordable multifunction thermometers that also function as ear and forehead thermometers and can also measure water temperature.
- NUK has a range of children's ear thermometers that have a smaller measuring probe and are especially suitable for small children's ears.
Other manufacturers that are also mentioned by Stiftung Warentest in clinical thermometer tests are:
Decision: What types of ear thermometers are there and which is the right one for you?
Because they are so easy to use, ear thermometers are suitable for children as well as adults and senior citizens. The measurement result appears after a few seconds and the device can be operated by the parents to take the temperature of the children.
Basically, three types of ear thermometers can be distinguished:
- Forehead and ear thermometers
- Ear thermometers suitable for babies
- Simple ear thermometers
They can be used to avoid possible inaccuracies in the application. If several children or people in the family are ill, an ear thermometer is also a more hygienic option, as no physical contact is necessary to measure the temperature. There are also devices that are equipped with a disposable protective cap that is thrown away after use.
However, an ear thermometer should not be used to take the temperature of babies under six months of age; here, rectal body temperature measurement is still considered more accurate. In the case of an inflammation in the ear, you should also switch to a digital thermometer.
When using thermometers for the ear, the room temperature must be taken into account, which must be constant for most devices. If the room temperature or the outside temperature is above or below the value specified by the manufacturer, the ear thermometers may indicate this to the user and not measure the temperature.
Since a constant room temperature is important for an ear thermometer, it is not always suitable as a travel thermometer. Even on camping trips, where there is a risk that the thermometer could come into contact with water, you should switch to a more robust alternative. Unless the device is marked as waterproof, you should not immerse it in liquids, even for cleaning.
Before using an ear thermometer, the user manual should be read so that the device is not used incorrectly.
Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate ear thermometers
You can use the following criteria to decide which ear thermometer model is suitable for you and which is less suitable.
- Operating time
- Follow-up costs
- Additional functions
Why should ergometry be important for you? First of all, you should think about who the thermometer is for.
It is important to know who is using the ear thermometer, as there are special devices for taking temperature in the ear for babies over six months and toddlers. The device should fit well in the hand, but the size of the measuring tip is especially important. If the ear thermometer is also intended for infants, then look for a small measuring probe that also fits well in a child's smaller ear canal.
Manufacturers such as NUK have adapted thermometers for the ear especially for small children. For seniors, it is important to have a large display that shows the numbers clearly and sufficiently large. The ear thermometer should also be comfortable to hold and you should be able to take your temperature without difficulty.
Quality refers to the workmanship of an ear thermometer. Most infrared ear thermometers are much more expensive than digital thermometers.
You want to get the most out of a device if you are going to pay more for it. There are numerous tests, such as Stiftung Warentest, but the product reviews on amazon.de also give you a first impression of how good the workmanship of an ear thermometer is.
When looking at the quality of the workmanship, you should also check whether your chosen ear thermometer is also waterproof. Not all ear thermometers have a disposable protective cap and if you want to disinfect the thermometer for the ear or simply clean it, it is important to have a measuring device that can also withstand water.
If you want a good ear thermometer, be sure to look at product tests and customer reviews.
Most ear thermometers need batteries, but some work with rechargeable batteries. Before buying, find out how energy-efficient the ear thermometer you want is.
If the battery is weak, the temperature reading may be incorrect.
There are different infrared ear thermometers and not all of them have the same functions. These additional functions result in additional costs for the user.
Protective caps on the measuring probe are hygienic. They are to prevent the spread of infection and it makes sense to have such a thermometer for taking a temperature in hospitals, when there are several children or when travelling. The ear thermometer can then be used several times in a row without being cleaned. After taking a temperature, the protective cap must be removed and you should then use a new cap for each new measurement.
On the one hand it is hygienic, on the other hand it means more waste for the environment and more costs for the user. When buying, make sure that a sufficient number of disposable caps are included if you choose a model with protective caps.
In addition, you should consider whether it is worth the extra cost to you. However, amazon.de offers a pack of 100 protective caps at a very reasonable price, and if you don't take your temperature every day, these will be enough for a longer period of time.
Protective caps for ear thermometers are more hygienic, but cost extra.
Ear thermometers measure body temperature very accurately because our eardrums are supplied by the same blood vessels as the fever control centre in our brain. However, there are differences between the devices, which are also mentioned in product tests.
Inaccurate fever measurements often have something to do with the incorrect use of such a fever measuring device for the ear. The manufacturers usually give precise instructions that you have to follow in order to get the most correct temperature result.
The use of infrared ear thermometers needs to be practised, as an accurate measurement is only possible if the thermometer is correctly aligned with the eardrum. There are ear thermometers that help the user position the measuring tip. With these models, it is easier to obtain an accurate measurement result.
You should also note the temperature limits up to which the ear thermometer displays accurate results. This is especially important with multifunction thermometers that can also measure room temperature and surface temperature.
Modern ear thermometers can often do more than just measure body temperature. More expensive devices have more functions that should make them more comfortable to use. Since there are big differences in the prices of clinical thermometers, you should decide which additional functions are important to you before you buy.
Here are some of the additional functions you should consider when making a purchase decision:
- Illuminated display
- Help with correct positioning
- Signal tone can be switched off
- Age-appropriate, coloured scale for fever
- Temperature announcement or signal in case of fever
- Further decision criteria
An illuminated display is handy if you want to take a child's temperature in a dark room without waking the child up. For older people, an illuminated display helps them to read the temperature reading more easily.
Help with correct positioning
It is not always easy to position the ear thermometer correctly, especially in the beginning. However, since a correct position of the measuring probe is crucial for an accurate temperature reading, this function in particular can be very important if it is your first ear thermometer.
Signal tone can be switched off
Some ear thermometers give a signal when they have finished measuring. For some buyers, this is a useful feature.
You know from the signal when you will know your temperature without having to set a timer. If you want to take the temperature of your sick child at night or during the day, it is inconvenient if the child is woken up by a loud signal.
There are models where the signal can be muted, this is not a necessary function for everyone, but it can be practical for you if the ear thermometer is also intended for children.
Age-appropriate, coloured scale for fever
When is a child's fever high and you should see the doctor? When do you have a high fever in a dangerous range as an adult?
The borderline ranges for high fever are different for adults and children. Some ear thermometer models have a coloured temperature scale.
The colour on the display serves as an indicator of whether the fever is low or whether you should already call the doctor. The colour indicators are green, yellow and red. If it is red, you should go to the doctor regardless of other symptoms.
This function is especially useful for parents, as with the first child it is often not known whether the fever is still within the normal range or not, and an ear thermometer with an indicator of the danger level of the fever can be very helpful.
If the colour indicator is red, you should go to the doctor.
Temperature announcement or signal in case of fever
It is also practical to have an ear thermometer that announces the temperature or gives a signal when you have a fever.
An ear thermometer is particularly useful for older patients or people with a visual impairment, as they do not have to read the temperature. A model with a temperature announcement is a good choice for this group of buyers and can be more practical than a colour scale.
Other decision criteria
Multifunctionality can also be an important purchase criterion, as can the ability to store and compare fever readings.
If you do not only want to take the temperature in the ear with the ear thermometer, then it is worth buying a multifunctional clinical thermometer.
On the one hand, you can often measure the room temperature or water temperature with such a thermometer, or it can also serve as a forehead thermometer. Memory is an important criterion if you need or want to control your body temperature for medical reasons.
Facts worth knowing about taking a temperature and clinical thermometers for the ear
How long does an ear thermometer take to measure?
In contrast to digital thermometers, where you have to wait up to a minute for the measurement result, the measurement time for ear thermometers is usually only a few seconds.
The exact measurement time varies depending on the device, from one to five seconds. The measuring time can be a reason for buying an ear thermometer or serve as a selection criterion for the different models. Infrared thermometers are very suitable for children because of the short measuring time.
Did you know that the new ear thermometers only need 1-5 seconds for the result due to their infrared measurement?
With conventional thermometers, it took an average of 30 to 60 seconds to get a result, which made measuring difficult, especially for children.
How safe are ear thermometers?
Before 1990, mercury was often used as a liquid in fever thermometers. The mercury contracts when it is cold and expands when it is warmed.
So when we have a fever and use a mercury thermometer, the level in the thermometer increases with prolonged skin contact. However, mercury is very toxic and especially dangerous in households with children, because such a device can quickly fall down.
In contrast, infrared thermometers, which include ear thermometers, are not dangerous because they measure body temperature via infrared rays emitted by the eardrum.
When do I start to have a fever?
Interesting to know: The measuring range plays an important role in determining the body temperature, which is why it can differ.
Fever is a natural defence reaction of our body to foreign pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. As soon as the fever exceeds 40 degrees Celsius, you should see a doctor quickly. In children, a high fever is defined as 39 degrees Celsius. Ear thermometers, such as the Braun ThermoScan 7, have a special function that shows the fever limit reading with a coloured scale, depending on the age of the child.
Normal body temperature is around 36-37 degrees Celsius.
Can ear thermometers also be used for cats or other pets?
Even a contactless ear thermometer with disposable protective caps is only intended for use on humans. For reasons of hygiene alone, you should not use the same clinical thermometer for pets as for yourself.
For one thing, there are infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans, so it is also safer from a medical point of view not to use the same measuring devices.
For another, ear thermometers are not designed for animals. Pets usually have narrower ear canals and different temperature limit scales than humans. Even if you get a temperature reading, it will usually not correspond to the animal's correct body temperature. In this case, it is better to use the thermometers specially designed for animals for rectal fever measurement.
Picture source: 123rf.com / Oksana Kuzmina