Tympanometry is used to take measurements of our ears and is sensitive to middle ear problems. It is a quickly, painless test that can be completed on infants, children and adults. A soft tip connected to a probe that controls pressure and a low tone is placed in the ear canal to make measurements. Subtle pressure is introduced into the ear, and a computer translates the readings from the ear canal into a graph called a tympanogram.
One thing tympanometry measures is the volume or amount of space from the tip of the probe to the ear drum. In children, this helps us identify if a surgically-placed tube in the ear drum is open or closed.
Another thing tympanometry measures is the status and health of the middle ear. There is a tube called the Eustachian tube that runs from the throat to the middle ear. The purpose of the Eustachian tube is to equalize the pressure in your middle ear with the atmospheric pressure. For example, when you are on a plane ride and the pressure in the cabin changes, you may notice a “popping” sound. This is the sound of your Eustachian tube opening to equalize the pressure in your middle ear. Some individuals experience Eustachian tube dysfunction which can create positive or negative pressure in the middle ear; this can be measured and read on a tympanogram.
The tympanogram may also show that there is abnormal movement of the ear drum as pressure is put into the ear canal. This kind of reading may indicate that there is fluid behind the ear drum or that there is a hole or rupture in the ear drum.