What Would Tympanometry Be Used to Measure?
Reviewed by Dr. Porter on December 3, 2021
Your audiologist uses tympanometry to measure how well your eardrum moves. Your audiologist puts a small probe that looks something like an earphone in both of your ears. A pump attached to the probe pushes air into your ear. Your audiologist sees a graph on a monitor called a tympanogram.
All you have to do is to sit quietly and avoid talking, humming, chewing, or vocalizing.
The tympanogram tells your audiologist whether your eardrum is healthy, or it moves too much, or it is too stiff, or it has a hole in it. Your tympanogram helps your audiologist determine if you have a buildup of wax in your ear canal, you have a hole in your eardrum, or you have fluid in your middle ear. A tympanogram can confirm a child’s ear infection.
But What Does Tympanometry Measure, Really?
Tympanometry doesn’t measure your hearing. Tympanometry measures the conduction of energy through your middle ear. It isn’t a measure of how flexible your eardrum is, either, and it doesn’t measure the sensitivity of your hearing. It measures how much sound energy travels through your middle ear.
When your audiologist uses tympanometry along with pure tone testing, listening for tones through headphones, it’s possible to determine whether any hearing loss you have is due to a conduction problem in your ears or a problem with your auditory nerves of the auditory processing center in your brainstem. Modern audiology has treatments that can address any source of hearing loss, but only after the cause of hearing loss has been accurately determined.
Your primary care physician or your ENT can also use tympanometry to measure fluid buildup caused by middle ear infections (otitis media).
How Tympanometry Works?
To do tympanometry in adults, your audiologist inserts the tip of a probe into your outer ear canal. The probe generates a low tone (226 Hz, which is 226 vibrations per second) that travels from the tip of the probe to your eardrum (your tympanic membrane), causing it to vibrate. If you have normal hearing, you will hear the tone. Some of the sound is reflected off your eardrum back to the probe. Most middle ear problems cause stiffening of the middle ear that reduces the amount of sound that will echo in your ear.
Audiologists do this test with higher-frequency probes to test hearing problems in babies. They may run the test at a variety of frequencies, up to 2000 Hz, to test for problems with the bones (hammer, anvil, and stirrup) in the middle ear.
What You Can Expect When Your Audiologist Does Tympanometry?
Harbor Audiology wants you to know these important facts about tympanometry:
- The test is painless for the patient.
- The test will provide a large amount of information to the audiologist.
- If the patient is experiencing pain or occlusion in their ears, this test is recommended.
- At Harbor Audiology, this test is typically performed in combination with a standard hearing test to get a complete picture of hearing health.
Your audiologist always inspects your ears with an instrument called an otoscope before inserting the probe for tympanometry. This is to make sure you don’t have a perforation of your eardrum. And once the test is done, there aren’t any absolute answers about the causes of your hearing issues from this one test alone. Your audiologist will also consider measurements of acoustic admittance (the amount of energy passing through your ear), the size of your ear canal, and standard testing results for your age, sex, and race along with other tests to give your hearing issue an accurate diagnosis. Tympanometry can be very useful in pinpointing other causes of hearing loss and how hearing aids can compensate for it.
The hearing specialists at Harbor Audiology can provide you with the hearing care you need to achieve the best hearing possible. We can help you choose the best of the most advanced hearing aids.
Contact Harbor Audiology Today
Harbor Audiology is experienced in filing for VA benefits, and we work with all major insurance plans. We are open most evenings and Saturdays. Harbor Audiology has offices in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Silverdale, Sequim, Port Angeles, and Bainbridge Island. Request your appointment online today!
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