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What To Expect from Tympanometry  & Getting Your Hearing Tested

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Hearing loss does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. From children to middle-aged adults, to elderly people. Loss of hearing is often the result of work-related damage, trauma, genetic conditions, or damage from day-to-day living. Hearing loss can be complicated, as it often happens gradually—worsening over time—or it might occur a lot faster if it is the result of a major event. 

For most people, hearing impairment happens slowly enough that it is difficult to detect until it is significant. This is why hearing tests can be so important in detecting any damage early and taking mitigating actions. You may be experiencing hearing loss without being aware of it. That’s where we come in. Mission Hearing performs routine hearing tests and evaluations to detect changes or abnormalities. 

Tympanometry — A Common Hearing Test for the Middle Ear

In a recent post, we discussed the anatomy of the ear and how its structure serves the function. Today, we’d like to go over tympanometry. This is an examination that tests the condition of the middle ear, the mobility of the eardrum, and the conduction bones. The middle ear is within the temporal bone and spans the tympanic membrane and lateral wall of the inner ear. The job of the middle ear is to transmit the vibrations and convert them into auditory sounds via the auditory ossicles. 

What To Expect From the Test

When going in for a hearing exam and tympanometry, there are a few things you might expect. The test is meant to measure what is called tympanic membrane compliance, which refers to how well the tympanic membrane operates. The device measures how well sound energy is transferred under changing air pressure. The tympanometry test will measure the mobility of your tympanic membrane, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you much about perceptual hearing. There are other tests for that. 

The Tympanometry requires the audiologist to put a small probe into the ear. The probe will resemble an earphone and requires you to sit still for a moment.  The test is painless and does not cause any major discomfort. The small device in the probe will push air into the ear. This is how it is testing the movement of the eardrum. The audiologist sees a graph called a tympanogram. 

The tympanometer is made up of an air pump, a probe with a speaker, a small microphone, and a manometer. The test requires that the probe fit snugly so it can properly measure the air pressure. The common tone is at 226 Hz. This particular tone has several benefits to measuring the adult ear— other frequencies can be used to measure middle ear pressure in children. The adult middle ear, however, has developed certain qualities that work more effectively from the 226Hz frequency. There are different results for adults and children. The volume range will vary between the child’s ear and the adult ear. 

So What Does a Tympanometry Test Tell Me?

This test can be useful in diagnosing certain disorders that can lead to hearing loss. Because it measures the movement of the tympanic membrane in response to certain pressures, it will indicate if there is dysfunction in the middle ear. 

The History of the Tympanometry 

The development of this test goes back to various notable names that were focused on studying and understanding the anatomy and function of the ear. Audiometers were invented in the late 19th century. The first “auditory chart” was developed by Arthur Hartmann. A man named Carl Seashore then first introduced the audiometer to measure hearing. Soon the concept in these hearing tests would become more sophisticated and begin working with frequencies to measure ear sensitivity. 

The concept of measuring middle ear pressure and tympanic membrane function was first developed in the 1950s. Understanding the pressure in the middle ear was important in understanding ear function and possible hearing loss. The first person to use the term “tympanometry” was a man named Knut Terkildsen. He used the term to refer to the effect of ear canal pressure on impedance. He and others began the concept of impedance measurements using frequency. In 1969, the idea of tympanometric shapes, which allowed the audiologist to measure and understand the function of the tympanic membrane and audiology as a whole. 

Do You Suspect Your Hearing Has Changed? Get a Hearing Test 

As mentioned above, hearing loss can occur gradually, but if you have noticed changes in your hearing, then getting a hearing test on a regular basis can provide essential information about how different parts of your ear are functioning. Tympanometry is only one of the many hearing tests we use to better understand how your hearing is working. Come by Mission Hearing and learn more!

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