Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs), a by-product of normal outer hair cell function, are used in research and clinical settings to noninvasively test cochlear health. The composite DPOAE recorded in the ear canal is the result of interactions of at least two components: a nonlinear distortion component (the generator component) and a linear reflection component. Negative middle ear pressure (NMEP) results in the tympanic membrane being pulled inward and increases middle ear impedance. This influences both the forward travel of stimuli used to induce distortion products and the reverse travel of the emissions back to the ear canal. NMEP may therefore limit the effectiveness of DPOAEs in clinical settings.
Twenty-six normal-hearing subjects were recruited, and eight were able to reliably and consistently induce NMEP using the Toynbee maneuver. Eight interleaved measures of tympanic peak pressure (TPP) were collected for each subject at normal pressure and NMEP. DPOAEs were then collected both when middle ear pressure was normal and during subject-induced NMEP. All measures were interleaved. Two primary tones were swept logarithmically across frequency (1 second per octave) from f1
= 410 to 6560 Hz and f2
= 500 to 8000 Hz (f1
= 1.22), producing 2f1
DPOAEs from 320 to 5120 Hz. DPOAEs were collected at three equal-level primary level combinations (L65, L70, L75 dB SPL). Before composite and component DPOAE analysis, analysis of the f1
DPOAE primary confirmed that subjects had successfully induced NMEP. DPOAE and component magnitudes were separately analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variances with three factors, primary level (L65, L70, L75 dB SPL), middle ear pressure (normal pressure versus NMEP), and frequency (500 to 4000 Hz).
Mean subject-induced NMEP ranged from −65 to −324 daPa. Changes in the magnitude (dB) of the primary tones used to induce the DPOAE provided a reliable indicator of subject-induced NMEP. Composite DPOAE and component levels were significantly affected by NMEP for all the frequencies tested. Changes were most clearly observed for the generator component with one subject demonstrating a mean decrease of 12 dB in magnitude during NMEP. Results were subject-specific, and there was a correlation between the degree of negative TPP induced and the amount of change in DPOAE level.
Mean TPPs collected during NMEP ranged from −65 to −324 daPa and significantly affected composite DPOAE, generator, and reflection component levels. Changes in the magnitude of the swept-primaries as a function of frequency were used to confirm that NMEP had been successfully induced. The patterns of change in the composite DPOAEs were clearer and easier to interpret when the components of the DPOAE were separated with evaluation of the generator component alone.