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Cochlear Mechanisms and Otoacoustic Emission Test Performance

Go, Nikki A.1; Stamper, Greta C.2; Johnson, Tiffany A.1

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000625
Research Article

Objectives: This study aims to determine the impact of controlling cochlear-source mechanism on the accuracy with which auditory status is identified using otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) in two groups of subjects with normal hearing (NH) and subjects with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Design: Data were collected from 212 subjects with NH and with mild to moderate hearing loss who fell into two categories based on a distortion product OAE (DPOAE) screening protocol: the uncertain-identification group (where errors were likely) and the certain-identification group (where errors were unlikely). DPOAE fine-structure patterns were recorded at intervals surrounding f2 = 1, 2 and 4 kHz (f2/f1 ratio = 1.22), with L2 = 35, 45, and 55 dB SPL (L1/L2 ratio = 10 dB). The discrete cosine transform was used to smooth fine structure, limiting the source contribution to the distortion source only. Reflection-source OAEs were also recorded using amplitude-modulated stimulus frequency OAEs (AM-SFOAE). Area under the relative operating characteristic (AROC) curve was used to quantify test accuracy when the source contribution was controlled versus the condition where both sources contribute. Additionally, failure rate, fixed at 5% for NH ears, as a function of behavioral-threshold category was evaluated.

Results: When data for the entire subject group were examined, reducing the reflection-source contribution to the DPOAE did not result in better test performance than the best control condition at any frequency tested. When the subjects with NH were restricted to those with confirmed fine structure, AROC analyses indicated that reducing the reflection-source contribution resulted in several small increases in the accuracy (2%–5%) with which auditory status was identified relative to the best control condition. This improvement was observed for the lowest stimulus levels (i.e., L2 = 35 or 45 dB SPL). In this subset of subjects, distortion-source DPOAEs resulted in more accurate identification of mild hearing loss for a fixed false-positive rate of 5% in NH ears at lower L2’s, conditions with poor accuracy in the larger group of subjects. The impact of controlling the source contribution on the identification of moderate losses was less clear in the reduced subject group, with some conditions where the distortion-source DPOAE was more accurate than the control condition and other conditions where there was no change. There was no evidence that reflection-source AM-SFOAEs more accurately identified ears with hearing loss when compared to any of the DPOAE conditions in either the large or reduced group of subjects.

Conclusion: While improvements in test accuracy were observed for some subjects and some conditions (e.g., mild hearing losses and low stimulus levels in the reduced subset of subjects), these results suggest that restricting cochlear source contribution by “smoothing” DPOAE fine structure is not expected to improve DPOAE test accuracy in a general population of subjects. Likewise, recording reflection-source OAEs using the AM-SFOAE technique would not be expected to more accurately identify hearing status compared to mixed- or single-source DPOAEs.

1Department of Hearing and Speech, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas

2Department of Audiology/Otolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida.

Received December 20, 2016; accepted May 3, 2018.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address for correspondence: Tiffany A. Johnson, Department of Hearing and Speech, Miller Building, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KS 66160. E-mail:

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