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Tympanometry

Tympanometry is a test used to detect problems in the middle ear.

Alternative Names

Tympanogram

How the Test is Performed

Before the test, your health care provider will look inside your ear to make sure nothing is blocking the eardrum.

Next, a device is placed into your ear. This device changes the air pressure in your ear and makes the eardrum move back and forth. A machine records the results on graphs called tympanograms.

How to Prepare for the Test

You should not move, speak, or swallow during the test. Such movements can change the pressure in the middle ear and give incorrect test results.

The sounds heard during the test may be loud. This may be startling. You will need to try very hard to stay calm and not get startled during the test. If your child is to have this test done, it may be helpful to show how the test is done using a doll. The more your child knows what to expect and why the test is done, the less nervous your child will be.

How the Test will Feel

There may be some discomfort while the probe is in the ear, but no harm will result. You will hear a loud tone and feel pressure in your ear as the measurements are taken.

Why the Test is Performed

This test measures how your ear reacts to sound and different pressures.

Normal Results

The pressure inside the middle ear can vary by a very small amount. The eardrum should look smooth.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Tympanometry may reveal any of the following:

  • A tumor in the middle ear
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Impacted ear wax
  • Lack of contact between the conduction bones of the middle ear
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Scarring of the tympanic membrane

References

Lieberthal AS, Carroll AE, Chonmaitree T. Clinical Practice Guideline: The Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media. Pediatrics. 2013;131(3):e964-e999.

Kerschner JE. Otitis media. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 632.

Casselbrant ML, Mandel EM. Acute otitis media and otitis media with effusion. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 194.

Updated: 5/14/2014

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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