This study examined differences between the middle ears of two ethnic groups, Caucasian and Chinese young adults with normal hearing, using a new middle-ear measurement technique, wideband energy reflectance. The goal of this study was to determine whether the Chinese group had different middle-ear transmission properties than the Caucasian group.
There were 126 subjects (237 ears) between the ages of 18 and 32 yr, with 62 subjects in the Caucasian group and 64 subjects in the Chinese group. Wideband energy reflectance data were gathered using Mimosa Acoustics (RMS system version 188.8.131.52) wideband reflectance (WBR) equipment.
The Chinese group had significantly lower wideband energy reflectance than their Caucasian counterparts at higher frequencies; however, the Caucasian group had significantly lower energy reflectance at lower frequencies than the Chinese group. The Chinese group also had significantly lower admittance magnitude than the Caucasian group at lower frequencies. Because body size indices are more comparable between Caucasian females and Chinese males, the effect of body size could be potentially adjusted for by comparing the Caucasian female subjects with the Chinese male subjects. The differences observed between the Caucasian and the Chinese groups were no longer significant when the Caucasian female subjects were compared with the Chinese male subjects. Applying the Caucasian norms to four Caucasian adults with surgically confirmed otosclerosis resulted in an improved hit rate compared with the combined Caucasian and Chinese norms and the Chinese-only norms.
Body size may play a role in the observed differences between the Caucasian and Chinese groups. The findings of this study suggest that further research is needed to investigate the effects of body size on wideband energy reflectance. It should be noted that factors other than body size may contribute to the observed differences. Chinese individuals may simply have different middle-ear characteristics than Caucasian individuals, which could affect WBR. In the meantime, overall test performance may be improved by using a more homogeneous norm when evaluating the middle ear of Caucasian or Chinese individuals with WBR.