Tympanometry is a test used to evaluate the middle ear and the mobility of the eardrum, which is located in the middle ear. Objective tinnitus has been associated with contracting or twitching (myoclonus) of the small muscles in the middle ear. Moreover, tinnitus can present itself with various conditions wherein the middle ear is compromised, including: otosclerosis, stiffening of the middle ear bones; otitis media, middle ear infection; and, cholesteamtoma, a benign mass of skin cells in the middle ear behind the eardrum resulting from repeated ear infections.
The middle ear is a closed space, filled with air, wherein the pressure of airborne sounds increase to travel to the inner ear, and from there to the brain. The middle ear is most efficient at passing sounds through it when there is equal air pressure on both sides of the eardrum.
Tympanometry is a brief and painless test that uses a probe, which can record and emit tones, and change air pressure. For this test, the audiologist inserts the probe into the patient’s ear, and air pressure is applied to the eardrum, moving it back and forth. During the air pressure changes, the device produces soft tones and records the amount of sound that is bounced off the eardrum. If the pressure on both sides of the eardrum is the same, then very little tone is reflected back.
The test measures how well the eardrum moves back and forth from its resting position, which helps determine if the eardrum is too stiff or too mobile. For example, if there is fluid behind the eardrum, it will not move when pressure is applied. Tympanometry also measures the amount of space in the ear canal. If there is an open pressure equalization tube or perforation (hole) in the eardrum, then the space will be larger than normal.
A graph called a, “tympanogram”, compiles the results obtained from the test to reveal the amount of air pressure on both sides. The results of your tympanogram are evaluated in conjunction with your hearing evaluation and acoustic reflex test to help indicate the nature of your tinnitus, and provide a thorough diagnostic picture of your hearing status.
Hearing Evaluation Services (HES) can then build a treatment plan that gets to the root of your individual tinnitus symptoms so you can regain control over your hearing.
Contact any of our HES locations to schedule a tinnitus appointment, and learn more about the various testing methods.