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How Can You Tell if an Ear Canal is Going to Collapse?

L. Maureen Valente, PhD

February 3, 2014

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Question

How can you tell if an ear canal is going to collapse?

Answer

While you can’t always be certain if an ear canal will collapse beforehand, I will put some light pressure on the pinnae as I am getting ready to do my otoscopic exam, before beginning pure tone testing.  I look to see if the ear canal is remaining open or patent, or if I see some collapse.  I can see if it is very loose and flaccid and if with just a little pressure from my hand it becomes a very narrow slit.  Infants and older people are more susceptible to collapsed canals.  Many audiologists use insert earphones during pure tone testing, which will alleviate the problem.

As you become more experienced with diagnostic testing, you will develop insights as to when your collective test results do not look right, and may point to signs of a collapsed canal.  For example, you may find an air-bone gap on your audiogram, with normal immittance testing and a case history with no red flags of a middle ear condition.  In this case, you may go back and repeat the testing to see if that air-bone gap was the result of a collapsed canal.

Editor’s note: This Ask the Expert was taken from the recorded course, Pure Tone Testing and Audiogram Interpretation presented by Dr. L. Maureen Valente.  To view the course in its entirety, please register here.


l maureen valente

L. Maureen Valente, PhD

Dr. Valente has been honored to serve as the Director of Audiology Studies and Associate Professor within Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine’s Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis. She was employed as a clinical/rehabilitative audiologist in a variety of medical settings, prior to serving as a full-time faculty member at Saint Louis University for 18 years. She has served in her current position for eight years, considering working with students and AuD Education among her greatest professional passions.  She has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and textbook chapters, notably having published a textbook entitled “Pure-tone Audiometry and Masking” in 2009 (Plural Publishing). Clinical and research interests have included Diagnostic Audiology, Vestibular Assessment Across the Lifespan, and Auditory Processing Disorders.  She is thrilled to have been invited to coordinate and moderate this “Back to Basics Series” and to also serve as one of the presenters.   


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