Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are inaudible sounds that are emitted by the inner ear when the cochlea – the auditory portion of the inner ear – is stimulated by a sound. People with significant hearing loss do not produce OAEs. Therefore, OAE testing is often used as a screening method to determine whether an individual is experiencing hearing loss.
In OAE testing, a small probe, designed to record OAEs, is inserted into the ear canal. A series of soft tones are played, and if the emissions are present, it is likely that your hearing is normal at those particular frequencies. OAE testing is noninvasive and does not require a verbal response from the individual being tested, making it an ideal method for infants and special populations. To learn more about OAE testing for infants and children, visit Pediatrics.
The results of an OAE test provides information about a patient’s hearing threshold. It is also useful in evaluating the integrity of the outer hair cells in the cochlea. When the cochlea is stimulated, the outer hair cells vibrate, producing OAEs. The absence or reduction of OAEs can help explain why some people have tinnitus (ringing in their ears) or difficulty hearing in noisy environments despite normal or near-normal hearing. OAE testing can also indicate ototoxicity – damage to the cochlea as a result of medication that is toxic to the ear.
Hearing Evaluation Services (HES) regularly uses OAE testing alongside a hearing evaluation and additional hearing tests such as tympanometry and acoustic reflex testing. The results of OAE testing will give us a better understanding of your hearing threshold, and help us identify the perfect solution to meet your individual hearing needs.