Wideband acoustic immittance (WAI) measures such as pressure reflectance, parameterized by absorbance and group delay, equivalent admittance at the tympanic membrane (TM), and acoustic stapedius reflex threshold (ASRT) describe middle ear function across a wide frequency range, compared with traditional tests employing a single frequency. The objective of this study was to obtain normative data using these tests for a group of normal-hearing adults and investigate test–retest reliability using a longitudinal design.
A longitudinal prospective design was used to obtain normative test and retest data on clinical and WAI measures. Subjects were 13 males and 20 females (mean age = 26 years). Inclusion criteria included normal audiometry and clinical immittance. Subjects were tested on two separate visits approximately 1 month apart. Reflectance and equivalent admittance at the TM were measured from 0.25 to 8.0 kHz under three conditions: at ambient pressure in the ear canal and with pressure sweeps from positive to negative pressure (downswept) and negative to positive pressure (upswept). Equivalent admittance at the TM was calculated using admittance measurements at the probe tip that were adjusted using a model of sound transmission in the ear canal and acoustic estimates of ear-canal area and length. Wideband ASRTs were measured at tympanometric peak pressure (TPP) derived from the average TPP of downswept and upswept tympanograms. Descriptive statistics were obtained for all WAI responses, and wideband and clinical ASRTs were compared.
Mean absorbance at ambient pressure and TPP demonstrated a broad band-pass pattern typical of previous studies. Test–retest differences were lower for absorbance at TPP for the downswept method compared with ambient pressure at frequencies between 1.0 and 1.26 kHz. Mean tympanometric peak-to-tail differences for absorbance were greatest around 1.0 to 2.0 kHz and similar for positive and negative tails. Mean group delay at ambient pressure and at TPP were greatest between 0.32 and 0.6 kHz at 200 to 300 μsec, reduced at frequencies between 0.8 and 1.5 kHz, and increased above 1.5 kHz to around 150 μsec. Mean equivalent admittance at the TM had a lower level for the ambient method than at TPP for both sweep directions below 1.2 kHz, but the difference between methods was only statistically significant for the comparison between the ambient method and TPP for the upswept tympanogram. Mean equivalent admittance phase was positive at all frequencies. Test–retest reliability of the equivalent admittance level ranged from 1 to 3 dB at frequencies below 1.0 kHz, but increased to 8 to 9 dB at higher frequencies. The mean wideband ASRT for an ipsilateral broadband noise activator was 12 dB lower than the clinical ASRT, but had poorer reliability.
Normative data for the WAI test battery revealed minor differences for results at ambient pressure compared with tympanometric methods at TPP for reflectance, group delay, and equivalent admittance level at the TM for subjects with middle ear pressure within ±100 daPa. Test–retest reliability was better for absorbance at TPP for the downswept tympanogram compared with ambient pressure at frequencies around 1.0 kHz. Large peak-to-tail differences in absorbance combined with good reliability at frequencies between about 0.7 and 3.0 kHz suggest that this may be a sensitive frequency range for interpreting absorbance at TPP. The mean wideband ipsilateral ASRT was lower than the clinical ASRT, consistent with previous studies. Results are promising for the use of a wideband test battery to evaluate middle ear function.
1VA RR&D, National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR), VA Portland Health Care System, and Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA; 2Boys Town National Research Hospital, Omaha, Nebraska, USA; and 3Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
Douglas Keefe has an interest in the commercial development of devices to assess middle ear function.
Authors have no other conflicts of interest.
Received December 21, 2015; accepted October 16, 2016.
Address for correspondence: M. Patrick Feeney, National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, VA Portland Health Care System, 3710 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA. E-mail: Patrick.Feeney@va.gov