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Things to know about tympanometry

A certain type of hearing test

About the explanation, procedure, results & interpretation of a tympanometry

In this article, you will learn about the most important points surrounding tympanometry and its procedure. If you have any questions, please contact our hearing care professionals at Amplifon for an appointment. Additionally, if you are experiencing any hearing loss, we offer free online hearings tests to help determine whether your ability to hear is currently at a 100%.

Tympanometry explained

Tympanometry is a type of audiometric test that measures the displacement of the tympanic membrane, which is an objective measure of the middle ear function. This non-invasive test detects changes in pressure and acoustic stimuli to determine how well the eardrum responds.

More about objective hearing tests

Audiometry is a type of hearing test that uses objective measures to determine how well someone hears. Unlike tonal audiometry, which relies on patient feedback, impedance audiometry tests reflexes in the ear alone.

More about impedance audiometry

Impedance audiometry is a type of hearing testing that uses objective methods. It includes several tests:

  • Tympanometry, during which the deflections of the tympanic membrane under pressure changes and acoustic stimuli are recorded.
  • Stirrup muscle reflex test 
  • Ear trumpet patency test

More about the eardrum

The eardrum is a translucent, pearly-grey tissue that is aproximately 1mm thick and sits on the outer edge of the ear. It is responsible for transforming incoming sound waves into mechanical vibrations. Despite its small size, the eardrum is a key player in our hearing abilty and any damage to it can impair hearing function.

What is a tympanometry used for?

Tympanometry is used to diagnose all types of hearing loss, ranging from conductive (to detect ear infections), sensorineural (to identify abnormalities in the auditory nerve), cochlear (to examine how well the inner ear functions), and extracochlear (in which damage or problems with other parts of the body can cause hearing loss). Additionally, tympanometry can also be used to diagnose various forms of acoustic disorder such as otitis media, abnormalities of the stirrup reflex or obstruction of the auditory tube.

When to perform the test?

Tympanometry can be used to diagnose a variety of ear conditions in cases where the cause is unknown or there are no signs of external damage. Due to its subjective nature, this test is valuable for diagnosing otitis and tympanometry in children.

When not to perform the test

Before performing tympanometry, the otoscopic examination checks to see if there is an obstruction in the ear canal - this includes checking for any foreign objects, visible perforations or injuries that would prevent accurate measurements. In addition, it's not appropriate to perform the examination if there has been recent surgery on either your ears or your hearing nerves. The exam should be done no less than six weeks after such surgeries have been completed.

About conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is a condition in which sound does not adequately travel from the environment to the inner ear, often due to fluid accumulation in the middle ear. Tympanometry can identify problems such as fluid buildup within the middle ear, which would account for this type of hearing loss.

About sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of a disruption in one or more areas of the inner ear or central part of the brain. Most often, this condition develops with age.

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Procedure of a tympanometry

Tympanometry is a quick and easy procedure that can be completed in just a few minutes. The examination is conducted sitting down with as little patient movement as possible. A probe and ear canal seal plug are placed into the subject's ear under examination. This device then records the pressure changes inside of their ear, showing how far up on the eardrum the stirrup muscle reflexes have moved. Sound stimuli at frequencies of 0.5, 1, 2, 4kHz will be applied during measurements to track how quickly these reactions happen. It's important to avoid swallowing saliva or speaking during this process in order to ensure accurate results.

How to prepare

The tympanometry exam is painless and safe. During the test, you may feel a slight discomfort as pressure in your ear canal changes and sound intensity varies.

Result of the hearing test: tympanogram

The results of tympanometry are represented on a graph, with the horizontal axis representing air pressure in the external auditory canal and the vertical axis indicating susceptibility. A correct result should be located at or near 0 daPa on this graph, which indicates the highest level of vulnerability to hearing loss. If the data is shifted towards negative values, this may indicate an obstruction in one or both ears; if there is no clear peak at zero pressure, this suggests that there is an effusion (fluid) inside the middle ear.

How to read a tympanogram

The results of a tympanogram show the degree to which sound is absorbed by the eardrum. In healthy patients, acoustic energy is mostly blocked and ignored by the ear drum, whereas in those with hearing loss it is instead reflected back towards them. When reading a tympanometric result, be aware of the shape of its curve.

  • Type A: The peak pressure lies close to 0 psi, indicating a normal outcome.
  • Type B: There's a flat line on the graph meaning there was no change from baseline values.
  • Type C: Characterized by an increased peak pressure (to the left) and indicates an abnormal result.

Where can I perform the tympanometry hearing test?

Tympanometry tests can be performed at hospitals, audiology offices, and hearing care facilities such as clinics. After the test is completed, you will receive your results right away through one of our communication channels. The test takes only a few minutes to complete - please contact us for more information about availability or scheduling an appointment.

Get a tympanometry at Amplifon

You can undergo a tympanometry test at one of our 300 Amplifon clinics in Australia. You can find your nearest clinic using our store locator, if you wish to make an appointment prior to visiting.

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