Inside the Collection

Mystery Object – The ‘Earoscope’

Earoscope. Collection, Powerhouse Museum

The curatorial team here at the Museum are the keepers to an immense amount of knowledge, covering a wide variety of special areas. If you have a question, chances are someone here can write you a novel on the subject.

But… I will let you in on a little secret. We don’t know everything about everything!

Which brings me to my mystery object for the week.

The above device was acquired by the Museum in 1987 and is labelled as an ‘Earoscope’, made in 1893. A few of us here have attempted to research it and have come up short. The stamp on it reads “Earoscope, Patent, WASH.AP.4.1893”, which has not helped me in any American, British, or Australian patent databases.

We found just two mentions of it on the web, one here on the CAN network, and another on the CAN network from the Toowoomba Hospital Museum, who are also looking for information on their earoscope:

“Patrick writes… “The patient in the 1930s suffered a traumatic skull fracture and was admitted to our hospital with an ear-full of blood. He went home a week later and was given the earoscope presumably to suck any remaining discharge. I am intrigued about the little patent needle which moves up and down as the handle is turned. How does it all work? The top part is now firmly stuck on ? rusted.”

Which sheds some light, but is this really how it was used?

We cannot open our earoscope to see inside, but as you can see it has a clamp, a handle, and a rubber coated metal tube out the top.

Why would you have to clamp this device onto something?
Can you really use it to suck blood from your ear?
Has anyone ever seen one or used one?
Anyone want to have a guess at what else it was used for? bonus points if you come up with something imaginative and wacky!

Thanks to helpful reader Ben (see comments) we may have a lead on our mystery object! he found this advertisment in ‘The Advertiser’, wednesday 1 March 1911.


I hope they are talking about the same device! Maybe our earoscope made a sound when the handle was turned?
I’m off to follow up this new lead!

17 responses to “Mystery Object – The ‘Earoscope’

  • I don’t understand why it has a clamp!? Does that mean you would need to firmly attach it to a table and then have removable ears to clean adequately? Perhaps there is supposed to be a longer tube with nozzle attached which can be used to probe around inside the ear (ew…) – good luck!

    • Wendy, yes i think the object is missing a length of rubber tubing. Someone else pointed out it could also clamp to something like a stand, or upright object.

    • Hi it’s been 9 years since my last comment: I still have my Earscope as what’s in the picture. It has created a lot of discussion amongst many people far and wide. With research done here and overseas, we think it was an elaborate scam to part people with hearing issues from their hard earned cash. Meanwhile it sits in our lounge room for future generations to discuss
      ‘could it be?’

    • Thanks Amelia, The ‘British’ patent search i mentioned above (esp@cenet) covers Europe. Morbid Anatomy is my new favorite blog!

  • I am pretty sure it is missing something.

    Presumedly the way the device functions would require a spare hand for something. Which would explain why it has a clamp. Because, if you turned the handle with one hand and hold the device itself with the other hand it wouldnt have a spare hand.

    So….based on that I am deducing that you would need a free hand to do something…I think you could need a spare hand to hold the length of rubber tubing in your ear (which we think is missing)…..with the other hand you turn the handle, which sucks stuff out of your ear.

    Well it either has to suck or blow….doesnt it?

    Well it either

    • Hi Ben,

      No I hadnt seen any of those papers!! New search function from the NLA?

      The advert’s are fabulous! We may just be one step closer to solving the mystery. If the articles are talking about the same device as we have, then maybe turning the handle produced a sound (that would be the “Aural Kinetics” part?).

      Thanks for your help Ben!


  • This reminds me of an ear procedure I had just 2 weeks ago, due to an ear infection, my ear specialist ‘vacuumed’ my ear out with a small tube, immensely painful, but very effective. Maybe that has something to do with it

  • I am thrilled that you listed this mystery item as I also have a identical Earoscope in the same perfect condition. I have research for many years and found very little and especially about how it works. We have had expert far and wide but to no result. From pipe at the top it looks like it has been cut but yours is identical so back to square one. love to hear more!

  • Thought I’d try and found out about my “earoscope” ( which has a small length of rubber tubing ) but it seems it might remain a mystery for a bit longer!

  • hi guys I also have a Earoscope with corospondence from the Earoscope company in Pitt st Sydney also New York London ect very impressive letterhead it cost 2 pounds in the early 1900s it came in a strong cardboard box with metal corners it has a red rubber tube with an earpiece attached letterhead States it cures “deafness ringing in the ears and all other aurel complaints” I am sure it has a diaphram inside which when turned pulsates air through earpiece I came to this conclusion after reading pulsating air was used to ease tinitis ( ringing in the ears) As only a custodian of this piece that I have had for 45 years I might be tempted to part with it hope this answers a few questions cheers Phill

  • I have just come across a mention of an Earoscope in my great-great Aunt’s diaries (in country South Australia). Thank you for listing this – sheds light on what it was – though I can’t imagine she used it much. Looks awful!

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