What is Tympanometry?

Tympanometry is a non-invasive hearing test that assesses the health and function of the middle ear. It involves a small probe placed in the ear canal, which varies air pressure to measure how effective sound energy is transmitted via the middle ear into the cochlea. This helps identify issues like fluid behind the eardrum or problems with the ossicles. Tympanometry is crucial in diagnosing various ear conditions and guiding appropriate treatment.

Tympanometry Device
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Tympanometry vs Audiometry

It’s important to note that tympanometry is not a measure of hearing sensitivity and should be used in conjunction with other measures like pure-tone audiometry and speech audiometry to capture a complete view of a patient’s hearing health. It does, however, provide a vast amount of information on middle ear function that a hearing test cannot.

While audiometry is important to determine the severity of hearing loss and to classify conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss, it cannot determine the cause of conductive and mixed loss. This information can be obtained by performing tympanometry alongside your standard hearing test.

Tympanometry is painless and essentially risk free making it a simple and non-invasive procedure. Additionally, once a seal is achieved by the probe placed in the ear, the measure takes just seconds to complete.

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How to Perform a Tympanometry Test and What to Look For

Tympanometry is a fast and non-invasive way to assess the health of the middle ear. During a tympanometry test, a small probe consisting of an air pump, a microphone, and a speaker is placed in the ear canal. The probe size will vary depending on the patient as it must seal the ear canal completely during testing. Air pressure in conjunction with a pure tone will be introduced by this probe.

Responses to this tone are measured and several values are obtained including ear canal volume, compliance or static admittance, and the tympanometric peak pressure point. These values are traced onto a graph and interpreted by a clinician to determine how well the middle ear is functioning.

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Preparing for Tympanometry Testing and Tympanometry Risks 

Tympanometry is a quick and painless procedure that involves little to no risk and usually no side effects. For adults, no preparation is needed either. Simply arrive at your audiologist's office ready to discuss any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. While the test is being performed, you may feel the pressure change in the ear, like you’re going up in a fast elevator, but no pain is involved. Children may express some discomfort with this test as it is a new sensation, however, just like with adults, they will not experience pain and the test is extremely quick.

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Tympanometry Types

Audiologists often classify tympanograms by type. The three values noted above, compliance, tympanometry peak pressure, and ear canal volume, are all charted on the tympanogram and contribute to determine the graphs “type.” The different tympanometry curve types are outlined below.

Type A

Type A

Compliance/Static Admittance: Peek compliance > 0.3 ml

Tympanometric Peak Pressure Point: -100 - +100 daPa

Type AS

Type As

Compliance/Static Admittance: Peek compliance < 0.3 ml

Tympanometric Peak Pressure Point: -100 - +100 daPa

Type AD

Type Ad

Compliance/Static Admittance: Peek compliance >/= 1.5 ml

Tympanometric Peak Pressure Point: -100 - +100 daPa

Type B

Type B

Compliance/Static Admittance: No peak 

Tympanometric Peak Pressure Point: No peak

Type C

Type C

Compliance/Static Admittance: Regardless of peak compliance

Tympanometric Peak Pressure Point: >-100 daPa

Interpreting Tympanometry Results

Tympanometry results should be compared to normative values, and/or by classifying the tympanogram visually by type. These curve types will provide the clinician with information regarding middle ear function. When interpreting results, it’s important to keep your complete diagnostic picture in mind. In other words, your audiometric results, patient history, and even past patient results.

How Abnormal Tympanometry Results Are Handled - What's Next

When abnormal tympanometry results are obtained, the audiologist will likely refer you to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor – if the patient is not already seeing one. Treatment for common causes of abnormal tympanometry like eustachian tube dysfunction or fluid in the ear are often easier to treat. Treatment, however, will vary depending on the tympanometric results. 

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A Tympanometry Device - What to Know About Tympanometers

While all tympanometers function in essentially the same way, and all produce tympanograms reflecting the measures described above, some also provide additional features, like acoustic reflex testing.  

The Entomed TY-101 is one such tympanometer. Not only does this device allow for multi-frequency tympanometry testing with 3D-diagrams, but it also allows for a quick transition into other tests like acoustic reflexes, both ipsilateral and contralateral, as well as acoustic reflex decay. The Entomed TY-101 is also able to complete not only basic TEOAE and DPOAE testing, but also pressurized FMPOAEs by utilizing the same probe used to measure tympanometry when negative pressure is present.  

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