OAE Testing

What Is an OAE?

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) are very soft sounds which are generated in the cochlea (inner ear) in response to a sound stimulus. The hair cells in the cochlea are set into vibration when we hear sounds and transform those mechanical movements into neural signals. In response to the stimulus, an echo is generated by the hair cells and these vibrations are transmitted as soft sounds from the inner ear, through the middle ear, to the outer ear. Studies have proven that OAEs disappear when the inner ear has been damaged (hearing loss of more than 25-30 decibels), that is why OAEs are often used to determine the health of the inner ear. An OAE screening can also detect conductive hearing loss. If the middle ear is blocked, the very quiet sounds will not be able to get through from the inner ear to the outer ear.

Types of OAE

There are two types of otoacoustic emissions; spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOAEs) and evoked otoacoustic emissions (EOAEs). While SOAEs can occur without external stimulation, EOAEs require an evoking stimulus. EOAEs are subdivided into transient-evoked OAEs (TEOAEs) and distortion product OAEs (DPOAEs). In TEOAE testing, a series of transient stimuli (wideband clicks or chirps) are presented to the ear. DPOAEs are generated when the cochlea is simultaneously stimulated by two pure tones.

How Does OAE Screening Work?

To perform an OAE test, an OAE screener with a probe is needed. The probe is placed into the patient’s ear canal and plays a sound to the ear. The device measures the sound that comes back and the results are displayed on the screen of the OAE hearing screener. If the device detects OAEs, the result is displayed as “Pass”. If no response is detected, the result is a “Refer” which does not necessarily mean that there is a hearing loss present. “Refer” means that further tests are needed to verify if a hearing loss is present. Additionally, the device provides information about the signal and noise measures of the tested frequencies.

What Is OAE Used For?

OAE is an objective test method which requires no active participation from the patient. Therefore OAE is perfect for testing newborns and young children. OAE tests are thus widely used in newborn hearing screening programs and at pediatric facilities. Because OAE tests evaluate the status of the outer hair cells, they are widely used to monitor the impact of noise exposure or ototoxic medication.

To find out why we care so much about Newborn Hearing Screening, watch our video:

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Portable Devices for TEOAE, DPOAE and Even ABR Screening

MAICO offers OAE devices for hearing screening and early hearing detection and intervention programs. Choose between our well-known ERO•SCAN and our intuitive easyScreen. While easyScreen combines ABR and OAE in one device, ERO•SCAN lets you choose between a screening and a diagnostic version.