Tuning into Auditory Health: An Introduction to Audiograms and Tympanometry

Understanding and monitoring our auditory health is crucial for maintaining a high quality of life. Our ability to hear and interpret sounds plays a vital role in our daily interactions and overall well-being. Audiograms and tympanometry are two essential tools used in audiology to assess and diagnose various hearing-related conditions. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of auditory health, exploring the basics of audiograms and tympanometry.

What is an Audiogram?

An audiogram is a graph that represents a person’s ability to hear sounds across different frequencies and volumes. It is a visual representation of the results obtained during a hearing test, known as an audiometry evaluation. This evaluation measures the softest sounds a person can hear at specific frequencies, typically ranging from 250 to 8000 Hz.

How is an Audiogram Conducted?

Audiograms are conducted by audiologists, who are healthcare professionals specialized in diagnosing and treating hearing disorders. During an audiometry evaluation, the patient is presented with a series of tones or speech stimuli through headphones or insert earphones. The patient signals when they can hear the sound, and the audiologist records the response on the audiogram.

Expanding on this paragraph, audiometry evaluations are conducted in sound-treated booths to minimize external noise interference. The tones or speech stimuli are played at varying frequencies and volumes to determine the thresholds at which the patient can hear them. The thresholds are plotted on the audiogram, with frequency displayed on the horizontal axis and intensity on the vertical axis.

Understanding Audiogram Results

Audiograms consist of two main components: frequency and intensity. Frequency refers to the pitch of a sound, while intensity represents the sound’s volume or loudness. These components are graphed on the audiogram, with frequency typically displayed on the horizontal axis and intensity on the vertical axis.

On an audiogram, normal hearing falls within the range of 0 to 20 decibels (dB) across all frequencies. Any hearing loss is indicated by a higher dB value, reflecting the need for a louder sound to be heard.

Types of Hearing Loss

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when sound waves are unable to pass through the outer or middle ear efficiently. Causes of conductive hearing loss may include earwax buildup, ear infections, or abnormalities in the ear structure. Audiograms for conductive hearing loss show an air-bone gap, indicating that air conduction thresholds are higher than bone conduction thresholds.

Expanding on this, conductive hearing loss can also be caused by a perforated eardrum, fluid in the middle ear, or problems with the ossicles (tiny bones in the middle ear). Treatment options for conductive hearing loss may include medication, removal of earwax, surgical repair of the eardrum, or the use of hearing aids.

  1. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve pathways. It is often caused by aging, exposure to loud noises, or certain medical conditions. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically depicted on an audiogram as a consistent elevation of thresholds for both air and bone conduction.

Expanding on this, sensorineural hearing loss can also be caused by genetic factors, head trauma, viral infections, or certain medications. Treatment options for sensorineural hearing loss may include hearing aids, cochlear implants, or auditory rehabilitation programs.

  1. Mixed Hearing Loss: Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Audiograms for mixed hearing loss show an air-bone gap, indicating issues with sound transmission through the outer or middle ear, as well as elevated thresholds for both air and bone conduction.

Expanding on this, mixed hearing loss can occur when an individual with pre-existing sensorineural hearing loss develops additional conductive hearing loss. Treatment options for mixed hearing loss may include a combination of medication, surgery, and hearing aids.

What is Tympanometry?

In addition to audiograms, tympanometry is another essential tool used to assess auditory health. Tympanometry measures the movement of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) in response to changes in air pressure. This examination provides valuable information about the condition of the middle ear and the functioning of the eustachian tube.

How is Tympanometry Conducted?

Tympanometry is a non-invasive procedure conducted using a specialized instrument called a tympanometer. The patient is asked to sit still and remain quiet while a small probe is placed in their ear canal. The probe emits a tone, and the instrument measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.

Expanding on this paragraph, tympanometry is performed to assess the mobility and compliance of the eardrum. It helps identify conditions such as eustachian tube dysfunction, middle ear infections, fluid accumulation, or perforated eardrum. The probe used in tympanometry measures the sound reflected back from the eardrum, and the data is plotted on a tympanogram.

Understanding Tympanometry Results

Tympanometry results are represented graphically on a tympanogram. This graph shows the compliance or stiffness of the eardrum at different levels of air pressure. Tympanograms typically display three main types of results:

  1. Type A: Type A tympanograms indicate normal middle ear function. The graph shows a peak compliance at the midpoint of the pressure range, indicating a healthy and flexible eardrum.

Expanding on this, a type A tympanogram suggests that the middle ear is functioning properly, with no fluid accumulation or eardrum abnormalities. This result is typically seen in individuals with normal hearing.

  1. Type B: Type B tympanograms suggest the presence of fluid in the middle ear or a perforated eardrum. The compliance is significantly reduced or absent, indicating a problem with sound transmission.

Expanding on this, a type B tympanogram indicates abnormal middle ear function, often due to the presence of fluid behind the eardrum or a perforation in the eardrum. This result is commonly seen in individuals with middle ear infections or conditions such as otitis media.

  1. Type C: Type C tympanograms indicate negative pressure in the middle ear. The peak compliance is shifted to the negative pressure side of the graph, suggesting potential eustachian tube dysfunction.

Expanding on this, a type C tympanogram suggests dysfunction of the eustachian tube, which can lead to negative pressure in the middle ear. This result is often seen in individuals with conditions such as eustachian tube dysfunction or a recent upper respiratory infection.

Tympanometry results, combined with audiogram findings, help audiologists identify the type and severity of hearing loss and determine the most appropriate treatment options.


Regular monitoring of auditory health is crucial for early detection and intervention in hearing-related conditions. Audiograms and tympanometry are valuable tools that aid in the assessment and diagnosis of hearing loss and other ear-related issues. By understanding the basics of these tests, individuals can take a proactive approach to their auditory well-being and seek appropriate treatment when necessary. Remember to consult with a qualified audiologist for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized recommendations based on your specific needs.