Do you ever wonder about the science behind hearing loss? It’s a complex process that involves several factors, including inner ear damage and blockages in the ear canal. Two key diagnostic tests that help in identifying the cause of hearing loss are audiometry and tympanometry. If you’re unsure of the difference between these two tests, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be delving into the basics of these tests, how they work, and why they’re useful in determining the hearing abilities of an individual.
Audiometry and tympanometry are two different approaches that are used to measure hearing capabilities. Audiometry, also known as a hearing test, involves measuring an individual’s ability to hear different sounds at varying frequencies and volumes. It involves wearing headphones and listening to various sounds, such as beeps and tones. On the other hand, tympanometry measures the movement of the eardrum when an external force is applied to it. This test helps to determine how well the middle ear functions and can assist in identifying blockages in the ear canal. Understanding the differences between these tests can help you gain valuable insights into diagnosing hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or profession. That’s why it’s essential to be educated about the different diagnostic tools used to assess hearing loss accurately. Audiometry and tympanometry are two different tests that help to determine the cause of hearing loss. Now that you have a basic understanding of these tests, we’ll dive deeper to help you better comprehend how these assessments are conducted, what they measure, and how they can assist in diagnosing hearing loss.
Overview of Audiometry and Tympanometry
Audiometry and Tympanometry are both diagnostic tests used to assess the hearing ability of individuals. However, they differ in terms of the information they provide and the methods used to obtain this information.
- Audiometry: This test measures the ability of individuals to hear sounds of varying frequencies and intensities. It is performed using an audiometer, a machine that plays sounds at different frequencies and decibel levels through headphones or speakers. The individual is asked to indicate when they hear the sound, and the results are plotted on an audiogram. This test can detect hearing loss and provide information about the type, degree, and configuration of the loss.
- Tympanometry: This test measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. It is performed using a tympanometer, a machine that pumps air into the ear canal and measures the eardrum’s response. The results are plotted on a tympanogram, which can provide information about the mobility of the eardrum and the pressure behind it. This test can detect problems in the middle ear, such as fluid buildup or a perforated eardrum.
Both tests are useful for identifying hearing problems, but they are used in different situations. Audiometry is typically used to assess hearing ability in patients of all ages, while tympanometry is more commonly used in children or patients with middle ear problems.
The Basics of Hearing Tests
Hearing tests are essential to identifying any hearing problems that one may have. They can help diagnose any hearing-related issues and come up with a plan for treatment. Hearing tests typically involve two main components: audiometry and tympanometry. While both tests help evaluate hearing, they do it in different ways.
- Audiometry is a hearing test that evaluates a person’s ability to hear different sounds.
- The test involves the use of headphones, and the individual is required to identify when they hear sounds of different pitches and volumes.
- The test is performed in a soundproof room to eliminate any background noise.
Tympanometry tests the function of the middle ear and eardrum by measuring the pressure in the ear canal.
- The test involves inserting a small probe into the ear canal, and the device changes the air pressure and measures the response of the eardrum.
- Audiometric tests are often combined with tympanometry to provide a more accurate evaluation of an individual’s hearing.
- Results from tympanometry can help identify any blockages in the ear canal or middle ear, which could contribute to hearing loss.
Interpreting Audiometry and Tympanometry Results:
Results from both audiometry and tympanometry are recorded on a graph that shows the different thresholds for hearing and the pressure in the ear canal.
|Audiograms plot the softest sounds
|Tympanograms measure eardrum mobility to air pressure changes
|Audiograms plot frequencies from 125 Hz to 8,000 Hz or higher
|Impedance (y-axis) measured in daPa (deca Pascals) – air pressure required to initiate eardrum movement.
Both tests are essential components in diagnosing hearing loss or other hearing-related problems and help audiologists tailor treatment plans to each individual’s requirements.
Audiometry: Tests for Hearing Sensitivity
If you suspect that you might be suffering from hearing loss, your first step should be to schedule a hearing test. During the hearing test, a hearing healthcare professional will use different tests, including audiometry and tympanometry, to assess your hearing ability. In this article, we will discuss the difference between audiometry and tympanometry, and focus on the first subtopic, audiometry tests for hearing sensitivity.
Audiometry is a hearing test that measures your ability to hear sounds of different frequencies and volumes. During the test, you will usually sit in a soundproof booth and wear headphones. The hearing healthcare professional will then play different sounds, called tones or beeps, at different frequencies and volumes, and ask you to raise your hand or press a button every time you hear a sound. The results of the test are plotted on an audiogram – a graph that shows your hearing ability at different frequencies.
There are various types of audiometry tests that can be conducted to test for different aspects of hearing sensitivity:
- Pure-tone audiometry: This is the most common type of audiometry and tests your hearing ability for different pure tones or beeps at different frequencies and volumes. This will help to determine the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies, and where any hearing loss may be occurring in your ear.
- Speech audiometry: With this test, the hearing healthcare professional will play different words or sentences at a comfortable volume and ask you to repeat them back. This helps to determine your ability to understand spoken words at different volumes and noise levels.
- Bone-conduction audiometry: This test is used to determine the type of hearing loss you may have. A bone vibrator is placed on your forehead, and the beeps or sounds are conducted through the bones in your skull, bypassing your outer and middle ear. This helps to determine if your hearing loss is happening in your middle or inner ear.
The results of your audiometry tests will be plotted on an audiogram. The audiogram shows the softest sounds you can hear at different frequencies, with the higher frequencies on the right-hand side of the graph and the lower frequencies on the left-hand side. The results are plotted using symbols, with an X indicating the softest volume you can hear for a particular frequency in your left ear, and an O for your right ear.
Tympanometry: Tests of Middle Ear Function
Tympanometry is a diagnostic test that measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. This test helps determine whether the middle ear is functioning properly, and can identify conditions such as otitis media (middle ear infection), perforated eardrum, and Eustachian tube dysfunction. Here are some important things to know about tympanometry:
- Tympanometry measures the transmission of sound through the middle ear, and is done by placing a small probe in the ear canal that generates a mild air pressure.
- The results of tympanometry are displayed on a graph called a tympanogram, which shows the amount of pressure needed to move the eardrum and the resulting movement of the eardrum.
- A normal tympanogram shows a peak at the pressure where the eardrum is most mobile, usually around -200 to 200 daPa (decaPascals).
Interpreting Tympanometry Results
The results from tympanometry can reveal important information about middle ear function. Here are some possible results and their implications:
- A flat tympanogram indicates there is limited movement of the eardrum, which can be caused by fluid build-up in the middle ear or a perforation in the eardrum.
- A peaked tympanogram means there is more movement of the eardrum than expected at a certain pressure, which can result from a stiff, thickened eardrum or a disarticulated ossicular chain (small bones in the middle ear that transfer sound).
- A negative peak or dip in the tympanogram suggests an issue with the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the throat and allows air pressure to equalize. A negative peak indicates the tube is not opening or functioning properly.
Tympanometry vs. Audiometry
While tympanometry is a test of middle ear function, audiometry is a test of hearing ability. Audiometry measures a person’s ability to hear sounds of different pitches and loudness levels. Unlike tympanometry, audiometry can detect both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the middle or outer ear, while sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a problem in the inner ear or auditory nerve. Both tympanometry and audiometry are important diagnostic tests that can provide valuable information about hearing and ear function.
|Tests middle ear function
|Measures hearing ability
|Measures eardrum movement in response to air pressure changes
|Measures ability to hear sounds of different pitches and loudness levels
|Can detect conditions such as otitis media and Eustachian tube dysfunction
|Can detect both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss
In conclusion, tympanometry is a valuable diagnostic tool that can help identify middle ear conditions and assess hearing function. By measuring the movement of the eardrum in response to air pressure changes, this test can provide important information that can guide treatment decisions and improve hearing outcomes.
The Role of Audiometry in Diagnosing Hearing Loss
Audiometry is a common test used by audiologists to evaluate a person’s hearing ability. The test measures a person’s ability to hear different sounds, pitches, and volumes, and can help diagnose hearing loss.
- Audiometry is a non-invasive and painless test.
- The test determines the type and degree of hearing loss.
- Audiometry can help determine the best course of treatment for hearing loss.
The test is performed using earphones or bone conduction headphones. A series of sounds and tones are played at different frequencies and volumes, which the patient responds to by indicating whether they can hear the sound or not. The results of the test are charted on an audiogram, which shows the patient’s hearing ability at different frequencies.
Audiometry is an essential tool for diagnosing hearing loss, as it can help identify the type and degree of hearing loss a patient is experiencing. This information is crucial in determining the best course of treatment. For example, if a patient has sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids may be recommended, while if a patient has conductive hearing loss, a surgical procedure may be necessary.
Types of Audiometry Tests
- Pure-tone Audiometry: Measures the softest sounds a person can hear at different frequencies.
- Speech Audiometry: Measures a person’s ability to hear and understand speech at different volumes.
- Tympanometry: Measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.
Interpreting Audiometry Results
Audiometry results are evaluated based on the patient’s ability to hear different frequencies and volumes. The results are plotted on an audiogram, which shows the softest sounds the patient can hear at different frequencies. The type and degree of hearing loss can be determined by comparing the patient’s audiogram to a standardized chart.
For example, if a patient has normal hearing, their audiogram will show that they can hear all frequencies at 20 dB HL or lower. If a patient has mild hearing loss, they may only be able to hear sounds at 26-40 dB HL. If a patient has severe hearing loss, they may only be able to hear sounds at 71-90 dB HL.
|Hearing Loss Category
|Audiometric Threshold (dB HL)
|20 or lower
|Mild Hearing Loss
|Moderate Hearing Loss
|Severe Hearing Loss
|Profound Hearing Loss
|91 or higher
Overall, audiometry is a critical tool in diagnosing and managing hearing loss. With this test, audiologists can determine the type and degree of hearing loss, which can guide appropriate treatment options and improve a patient’s hearing health and quality of life.
How Tympanometry Helps Diagnose Middle Ear Issues
Tympanometry is an essential test in the evaluation of hearing loss. It is a non-invasive diagnostic test that assesses the function of the middle ear and the mobility of the eardrum. The information gathered from tympanometry is often used to identify the type and severity of hearing loss and to differentiate between various middle ear problems.
- Tympanometry can help diagnose the following middle ear issues:
- Fluid in the middle ear: Fluid buildup in the middle ear can cause hearing loss by preventing the eardrum and middle ear bones from vibrating correctly. Tympanometry can detect the presence of fluid and measure its volume.
- Perforated eardrum: A hole or tear in the eardrum can cause hearing loss and increase the risk of infection. Tympanometry can confirm the presence of a perforated eardrum and determine its size and location.
- Otosclerosis: A condition in which abnormal bone growth interferes with the transmission of sound through the middle ear. Tympanometry can detect reduced movement of the eardrum, which is a hallmark of otosclerosis.
Tympanometry can also help in the assessment of several other conditions such as allergies, tumors, foreign objects in the ear, and dysfunction of the Eustachian tube.
A tympanometry test comprises a probe inserted in the ear canal. The probe delivers a sound wave and measures variations in air pressure as the eardrum moves. The resulting data is depicted on a graph called a tympanogram. The shape of the tympanogram can reveal valuable information about the health of the middle ear.
|A normal tympanogram with a peak pressure in the middle ear and typical eardrum movement.
|Flat tympanogram indicating a problem with middle ear fluid or a blocked Eustachian tube.
|A negative peak pressure with normal eardrum movement, indicating a dysfunction of the Eustachian tube.
|Shallow peak pressure, which suggests that the eardrum is less responsive to sound pressure.
|Deep peak pressure indicating increased stiffness of the middle ear, often caused by otosclerosis.
Overall, tympanometry is a valuable diagnostic tool that can help identify various middle ear issues accurately. An audiologist or a hearing healthcare professional usually performs the test in a soundproof booth as part of a comprehensive hearing evaluation.
When to Use Audiometry vs. Tympanometry in Hearing Evaluations
When it comes to evaluating hearing, audiometry and tympanometry are two commonly used tests. While both tests evaluate the patient’s hearing, they have different purposes and are applied in different scenarios.
- Audiometry: Audiometry is the most commonly used hearing test and is used to evaluate hearing thresholds and diagnose hearing loss. This test is performed in a soundproof booth, and the patient wears headphones through which they listen to different tones at different volumes. The audiologist records the patient’s ability to hear the tones and evaluates their hearing level.
- Tympanometry: Tympanometry, on the other hand, is used to evaluate the function of the middle ear. This test evaluates the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure, assessing the presence of fluid in the middle ear and the mobility of the bones in the middle ear. Tympanometry produces a graph called a tympanogram, which displays the results of the test.
So, when should you use audiometry or tympanometry in a hearing evaluation?
Reasons to Use Audiometry:
- When a patient presents with hearing loss or complains of difficulty hearing.
- To determine the type, degree, and configuration of hearing loss.
- To evaluate the effectiveness of hearing aids or cochlear implants.
- To determine if a conductive hearing loss is present.
Reasons to Use Tympanometry:
- To evaluate eardrum mobility and the presence of fluid in the middle ear.
- To determine if there is a hole or perforation in the eardrum.
- To evaluate the effectiveness of treatment for middle ear conditions such as otitis media.
- To assess the function of the Eustachian tube in patients who experience frequent ear infections.
It’s important to note that both tests provide critical information about a patient’s hearing and may be used in conjunction with each other to provide a comprehensive evaluation of their hearing health. It’s best to consult with a licensed audiologist to determine which test or combination of tests is appropriate for any individual patient.
|Used to evaluate hearing thresholds and diagnose hearing loss.
|Used to evaluate the function of the middle ear and assess the presence of fluid in the middle ear.
|Performed in a soundproof booth with the patient wearing headphones.
|Performed with a probe placed in the patient’s ear canal.
|Test results are recorded on an audiogram.
|Test results are recorded on a tympanogram.
Overall, both audiometry and tympanometry serve crucial roles in hearing evaluations, albeit in different ways. By using the appropriate test or combination of tests, a hearing healthcare provider can accurately diagnose hearing disorders and develop effective treatment plans.
FAQs about the difference between audiometry and tympanometry
1. What is audiometry?
Audiometry is a hearing test that measures the ability of a person to hear sounds of varying frequencies and volumes. It helps to determine if there is hearing loss and to what degree.
2. What is tympanometry?
Tympanometry is a test that measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure. It helps to determine how well the middle ear is functioning.
3. What is the difference between audiometry and tympanometry?
Audiometry measures the person’s ability to hear and identify sounds, while tympanometry measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.
4. When are audiometry and tympanometry used?
Audiometry is typically used when a person is experiencing hearing loss or a change in their hearing. Tympanometry is often used to diagnose middle ear problems, such as fluid buildup or a perforated eardrum.
5. Can audiometry and tympanometry be done at the same time?
Yes, audiometry and tympanometry can often be done during the same appointment. The tests can provide valuable information about the person’s hearing and ear function.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about the difference between audiometry and tympanometry. These tests are crucial in determining hearing health and diagnosing any issues. Be sure to schedule regular appointments with your audiologist to maintain good ear health. Visit us again for more helpful articles on hearing care.