Your middle ear consists of three small bones — the hammer, anvil, and stirrup — that are involved in how sound waves travel through your ear. They’re located behind your tympanic membrane, also known as your eardrum.
In order to best address hearing loss, Dr. Conrad McCutcheon and Marty Lippeatt, Au.D., first need to know what part of your ear is affecting your hearing. One test 一 a tympanometry test 一 is designed to rule out or confirm whether your middle ear is involved in your hearing loss.
If you’re scheduled for an upcoming tympanometry test at Memorial Village Sinus & Hearing in Houston, Texas, our team provides you with your specific preparation instructions. Here’s more about this assessment tool, including what to expect at your test.
What are tympanometry tests, and who needs one?
Tympanometry tests are just one of the many tests conducted during your hearing evaluation. You may need a hearing evaluation (and therefore a tympanometry test) if you’ve noticed a decline in your hearing abilities.
The goal of these tests is to determine where your hearing loss stems from. In the case of tympanometry, we focus on your middle ear, which consists of:
- Three small bones: malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrups)
- Small muscles
- Eustachian tube, which runs from behind your eardrum to the back of your throat
As sound waves go through your ear, the vibrations of your eardrum cause the bones in your middle ear to vibrate. These vibrations are necessary because they transfer the vibrations to your inner ear. If any of the components of your middle ear prevent your bones from moving, hearing loss can develop because the vibrations can’t complete their journey.
What to expect during your tympanometry test
Before starting your tympanometry test, Dr. Lippeatt first checks your ear canal with an otoscope. The otoscope features both a lens and a light to see your ear canal and eardrum. During this step, we make sure your ear canal is free of debris and earwax.
After the visual inspection, Dr. Lippeatt inserts a small probe into your ear. The probe, which looks similar to an earbud, pushes air into your ear. The air causes your eardrum to vibrate, and a special machine 一 a tympanometer 一 measures how well your eardrum moves. The results are recorded on a tympanogram.
All you need to do is sit still and refrain from speaking or chewing during the test. It only takes a few minutes to complete.
Are tympanometry tests painful?
Understandably, one of the first questions we hear is if the test will hurt. Tympanometry tests don’t hurt, but it can feel a little strange to have air blown into your ear. It shouldn’t feel any different from the sensation of air pressure changes you notice in your ear during air travel.
What do my results mean?
The tympanogram from this test is just one assessment we use when determining which part of your ear is involved in your hearing loss. If your results are normal, it means your middle ear isn’t involved in your hearing loss.
Abnormal results could indicate any of the following:
- Fluid in your middle ear
- Eardrum damage
- Middle ear pressure beyond normal pressure ranges
- Excessive earwax blocking your eardrum
- Middle ear bone damage
- Other problems with the ossicles of the middle ear
Depending on the results of your tympanometry test 一 and any other hearing tests you receive, Dr. McCutcheon may recommend medical treatments to address any underlying ear disorders. If needed, Dr. Lippeatt reviews your options for restoring hearing, including aural rehabilitation and assistive listening devices.
Don’t ignore the signs of hearing loss. If you’re struggling to hear loved ones, you’re constantly turning up the TV volume, and you’re straining to hold conversations, book a hearing evaluation today. You can call our Houston, Texas, office at 281-822-3777 or request an appointment online.