A 54-year-old man presents to the emergency department for a complaint of dental pain. As part of the exam, this image of an ear was obtained.
What is the bright line on the image?
The patient has an ear hair that is seen in this image.
The ear canal is a surprisingly complex piece of human anatomy. The tympanic membrane (eardrum) is located at the very end of the ear canal, about 1 cm deep to the ear opening. In addition, the canal is not a straight tube, there is a bend. Further complicating matters are natural obstructions in the canal including hairs and cerumen (wax). In this image, the bright white vertical line is light reflected off of a hair. You can also see dry cerumen layering inferiorly near the tympanic membrane.
Because examination of the ear canal has many challenges, being able to capture a video of the exam is very helpful. Here is the video of the exam from which the image was exported. The video allows you to see the entire canal and eardrum improving your ability to determine the context of what you are seeing.