Middle ear fluid in young children


Your child's health care provider may use the first two tests below to check for in middle ear fluid.

  • A Pneumatic Otoscope may be used to check for middle ear fluid. With this tool, the health care provider looks at the eardrum. The fluid in the middle ear may be seen behind the eardrum. Even when the fluid cannot be seen, the health care provider can test for fluid with this tool by blowing a puff of air onto the eardrum to see how well the eardrum moves. The child must be still for this test to work. The child will feel the otoscope in the ear, but the test does not hurt. This test does NOT measure the child's hearing level. Many health care providers feel that the pneumatic otoscope is the best test for middle ear fluid.
  • Tympanometry is another test for middle car fluid. Tympanometry helps the health care provider find out how well the eardrum moves. For tympanometry, a soft plug that is about the size of a person's little fingertip is placed snugly into the ear canal. The probe is connected to a machine called a tympanometer. The child hears a low noise for a short time while the machine records how the eardrum reacts. An eardrum with fluid behind it does not move as well as a normal eardrum.

    Like the first test, the child must sit still for this test and will feel the probe in the car. The test does not hurt. Tympanometry does NOT measure hearing level.

  • Hearing Testing may be done to see how well your child hears. Hearing testing does not test for middle car fluid. In this case, it measures if the fluid is affecting your child's hearing level. The type of hearing test used depends on your child's age and listening ability.

Source: The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, AHCPR Publication No. 94-0624 July 1994

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