To determine whether common approaches to setting stimulus parameters influence the depth of fine structure present in the distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) response. Because the presence of fine structure has been suggested as a possible source of errors, if one of the common parametric approaches results in reduced fine-structure depth, it may be preferred over other approaches.
DPOAE responses were recorded in a group of 21 subjects with normal hearing for 1/3-octave intervals surrounding 3 f2s (1, 2, and 4 kHz) at three L2s (30, 45, and 55 dB SPL). For each f2 and L2 combination, L1 and f2/f1 were set according to three commonly used parametric approaches. These included a simple approach, the approach recommended by Kummer et al., and the approach described by Johnson et al. These three approaches primarily differ in the recommended relationship between L1 and L2. For each parametric approach, DPOAE fine structure was evaluated by varying f2 in small steps. Differences in DPOAE level and DPOAE fine-structure depth across f2, L2, and the various stimulus parameters were evaluated using repeated-measures analysis of variance.
As expected, significant variations in DPOAE level were observed across the three parametric approaches. For stimulus levels ≤45 dB SPL, the simple stimuli resulted in lower DPOAE levels than were observed for other approaches. An unexpected finding was that stimulus parameters developed by Johnson et al., which were believed to produce higher DPOAE levels than other approaches, produced the lowest DPOAE levels of the three approaches when f2 = 4 kHz. Significant differences in fine-structure depth were also observed. Greater fine-structure depth was observed with the simple parameters, although this effect was restricted to L2 ≤ 45 dB SPL. When L2 = 55 dB SPL, all three parametric approaches resulted in equivalent fine-structure depth. A significant difference in fine-structure depth across the 3 f2s was also observed. The interval surrounding 2 kHz was associated with greater fine-structure depth than the intervals surrounding 1 and 4 kHz.
The simple stimulus parameters resulted in more fine structure than the other parametric approaches; however, this effect was restricted to L2 ≤ 45 dB SPL. At the moderate stimulus levels used in most clinical applications of DPOAEs (L2 = 55 dB SPL), all three approaches resulted in similar fine-structure depths. These findings suggest that manipulating stimulus parameters, particularly the L1, L2 relationship, is not an effective technique for reducing fine structure, except at the lowest stimulus levels, and that all the common parameters result in equivalent fine structure for moderate stimulus levels. These results also suggest that the stimulus parameters used in future studies of the clinical implications of fine structure may be relatively unimportant, unless stimulus levels ≤45 dB SPL will be evaluated.