Tympanometry has been routinely performed since the 1970s.
Tympanometry is used to monitor or evaluate issues affecting the middle ear. This area of the ear is behind the eardrum, or tympanic membrane.
- Those experiencing hearing or ear issues should have them promptly evaluated.
- Tympanometry is one of the diagnostic tests doctors might suggest to aid in evaluating or monitoring a problem.
This evaluation may be performed to explore disorders that might result in hearing loss, especially in patients who are children. The test is done to measure how the tympanic membrane moves as it responds to pressure changes. This membrane separates the outer and middle ear. A tympanogram is a type of graph that records the results from tympanometry. Doctors might perform this test to look for:
- Fluid accumulating in the middle ear
- A tear in the eardrum
- An infection in the middle ear
- A Eustachian tube problem (this tube connects the middle ear with the nose and upper throat)
This test may only need to be performed once to evaluate a problem. However, for monitoring purposes, doctors might choose to do it every few weeks over the course of several months.
Since it is typically children having this procedure, parents can do a few things to help them prepare, such as letting the child know that they need to be still. When they know what to expect, it tends to make it easier for kids to handle during the actual test. It might help to use a doll to show them how the procedure works. For adults, no preparation is needed.
How the Evaluation Works
Prior to performing the test, the doctor will look inside the ear canal to visually examine it. This is done via the use of an otoscope. The doctor wants to see if there is a foreign object or earwax obstructing the ear canal.
A device that is similar to a probe is then placed in the ear. This may cause minor discomfort. As the device starts to take its measurements, patients may hear loud tones. Throughout the test, the eardrum is being moved back and forth due to the air pressure changes that are happening as a result of the test. A tympanogram is able to record the eardrum movements so that the doctor is able to see exactly what is happening.
During the test, patients should not speak, swallow, or move. Doing any of these could cause inaccurate results and the doctor may have to do the test over again. It takes approximately one to two minutes to do both ears, so it is quick.
If the results are considered abnormal, this may indicate:
- Fluid accumulation in the middle ear
- Eardrum scarring
- Middle ear growths
- Ossicle immobility
- Eardrum perforation
- Pressure in the middle ear exceeding the normal range
- The eardrum being blocked by earwax