Your ear is made up of three parts—the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. A problem in the middle ear makes it hard for sounds to go from your outer ear to your inner ear and brain. Your audiologist may do tests to find out how well your middle ear works. These tests include
- acoustic reflex measures; and
- static acoustic measures.
Middle ear testing is especially important in children ages 3–5. Young children are more likely to have hearing loss due to middle ear problems, like ear infections.
Tympanometry tests how well your eardrum moves. The audiologist will put a small probe, which looks like an earphone, into each ear. A small device attached to the probe will push air into your ear. The person testing you will see a graph on the device, called a tympanogram. All you have to do is sit still.
The shape of the graph tells the audiologist about how your eardrum moves. It will show if your eardrum moves the correct way, is too stiff, moves too much, or has a hole in it. This can help the audiologist know if you have middle ear fluid, a hole in the eardrum, or wax in your ear canal. The test can help find out if a child has an ear infection.
A tiny muscle in the middle ear tightens when you hear a loud sound. This is an acoustic reflex and it happens without you knowing it. How loud the sound needs to be before this reflex happens can tell a lot about your hearing. If your hearing loss is very bad, you may not even have a reflex.
This test is like tympanometry. The sounds will come through a probe in your ear. A device will record your reflex.
This test measures how much air is in the ear canal. This test helps show if there is a hole in the eardrum. Some people have tubes put in their eardrums to help stop ear infections and hearing loss. This test can tell if your tubes are open or blocked. It can also tell if you have fluid behind your eardrum.