Predictive Accuracy of Sweep Frequency Impedance Technology in Identifying Conductive Conditions in Newborns

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Diagnosing conductive conditions in newborns is challenging for both audiologists and otolaryngologists. Although high-frequency tympanometry (HFT), acoustic stapedial reflex tests, and wideband absorbance measures are useful diagnostic tools, there is performance measure variability in their detection of middle ear conditions. Additional diagnostic sensitivity and specificity measures gained through new technology such as sweep frequency impedance (SFI) measures may assist in the diagnosis of middle ear dysfunction in newborns.


The purpose of this study was to determine the test performance of SFI to predict the status of the outer and middle ear in newborns against commonly used reference standards.

Research Design:

Automated auditory brainstem response (AABR), HFT (1000 Hz), transient evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE), distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE), and SFI tests were administered to the study sample.

Study Sample:

A total of 188 neonates (98 males and 90 females) with a mean gestational age of 39.4 weeks were included in the sample. Mean age at the time of testing was 44.4 hr.

Data Collection and Analysis:

Diagnostic accuracy of SFI was assessed in terms of its ability to identify conductive conditions in neonates when compared with nine different reference standards (including four single tests [AABR, HFT, TEOAE, and DPOAE] and five test batteries [HFT + DPOAE, HFT + TEOAE, DPOAE + TEOAE, DPOAE + AABR, and TEOAE + AABR]), using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis and traditional test performance measures such as sensitivity and specificity.


The test performance of SFI against the test battery reference standard of HFT + DPOAE and single reference standard of HFT was high with an area under the ROC curve (AROC) of 0.87 and 0.82, respectively. Although the HFT + DPOAE test battery reference standard performed better than the HFT reference standard in predicting middle ear conductive conditions in neonates, the difference in AROC was not significant. Further analysis revealed that the highest sensitivity and specificity for SFI (86% and 88%, respectively) was obtained when compared with the reference standard of HFT + DPOAE. Among the four single reference standards, SFI had the highest sensitivity and specificity (76% and 88%, respectively) when compared against the HFT reference standard.


The high test performance of SFI against the HFT and HFT + DPOAE reference standards indicates that the SFI measure has appropriate diagnostic accuracy in detection of conductive conditions in newborns. Hence, the SFI test could be used as adjunct tool to identify conductive conditions in universal newborn hearing screening programs, and can also be used in diagnostic follow-up assessments.

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