Tympanometry is a diagnostic procedure to examine the functionality of the eardrum, or tympanic membrane. It is designed to measure how the ear responds to varied air pressure in the middle ear.
Before the test, the patient's ear is examined to make sure the ear canal is not obstructed. During the test, the doctor places a handheld probe into the ear. This device changes the pressure in the ear and causes the eardrum to move. These movements are measured and recorded on graphs called tympanograms. Under normal circumstances, the eardrum will move easily. The movement of the eardrum may be adversely affected by a buildup of fluid, an obstruction in the Eustachian tube or a perforation of the eardrum.
During this procedure, the patient must remain still and not speak or swallow if accurate results are to be obtained. This may not always be easy for the patient since the sounds produced by the probe may be loud and startling. For this reason it is important that the patient be well-prepared for the experience, particularly if the patient is a child.
Abnormal results of a tympanometry may indicate fluid in the middle ear, a perforated or scarred eardrum, impacted ear wax, a tumor, or lack of contact between the conduction bones of the middle ear.