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Tympanometry

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

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 eardrum

Risks

There are no risks with this test.

Alternative Names

Tympanogram; Otitis media - tympanometry; Effusion - tympanometry; Immittance testing

References

Kerschner JE, Preciado D. Otitis media. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 658.

Woodson E, Mowry S. Otologic symptoms and syndromes. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 137.

Review Date 4/13/2020

Updated by: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.