Otoacoustic Emissions are faint sounds - best described as “echoes” - produced by the hair cells of the inner ear (the cochlea) in response to stimuli. OAEs are not a test of hearing, but are used as a tool to determine cochlear function. OAE recordings are electrophysiologic and are not dependent on patient response. A probe is placed into the opening of the ear canal for approximately 20 seconds while the patient listens to sounds, like notes on a scale for DPOAEs, or soft clicks for TEOAEs. By measuring the emisssions, audiologists can quickly determine the status of the cochlea, most notably the functionality of the outer hair cells.
OAEs are used for:
- hearing screening in newborns, infants and developmentally disabled persons;
- partially estimating hearing sensitivity within a limited range;
- differentiating between the sensory and neural components of hearing loss;
- identifying functional (feigned) hearing loss;
- monitoring ototoxicity;
- providing an early and reliable "warning sign" of cochlear dysfunction due to noise exposure before any problems are evident in the audiogram.