Assessing Sensorineural Hearing Loss Using Various Transient-Evoked Otoacoustic Emission Stimulus Conditions

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Abstract

Objectives:

An important clinical application of transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) is to evaluate cochlear outer hair cell function for the purpose of detecting sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Double-evoked TEOAEs were measured using a chirp stimulus, in which the stimuli had an extended frequency range compared to clinical tests. The present study compared TEOAEs recorded using an unweighted stimulus presented at either ambient pressure or tympanometric peak pressure (TPP) in the ear canal and TEOAEs recorded using a power-weighted stimulus at ambient pressure. The unweighted stimulus had approximately constant incident pressure magnitude across frequency, and the power-weighted stimulus had approximately constant absorbed sound power across frequency. The objective of this study was to compare TEOAEs from 0.79 to 8 kHz using these three stimulus conditions in adults to assess test performance in classifying ears as having either normal hearing or SNHL.

Design:

Measurements were completed on 87 adult participants. Eligible participants had either normal hearing (N = 40; M F = 16 24; mean age = 30 years) or SNHL (N = 47; M F = 20 27; mean age = 58 years), and normal middle ear function as defined by standard clinical criteria for 226-Hz tympanometry. Clinical audiometry, immittance, and an experimental wideband test battery, which included reflectance and TEOAE tests presented for 1-min durations, were completed for each ear on all participants. All tests were then repeated 1 to 2 months later. TEOAEs were measured by presenting the stimulus in the three stimulus conditions. TEOAE data were analyzed in each hearing group in terms of the half-octave-averaged signal to noise ratio (SNR) and the coherence synchrony measure (CSM) at frequencies between 1 and 8 kHz. The test–retest reliability of these measures was calculated. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) was measured at audiometric frequencies between 1 and 8 kHz to determine TEOAE test performance in distinguishing SNHL from normal hearing.

Results:

Mean TEOAE SNR was ≥8.7 dB for normal-hearing ears and ≤6 dB for SNHL ears for all three stimulus conditions across all frequencies. Mean test–retest reliability of TEOAE SNR was ≤4.3 dB for both hearing groups across all frequencies, although it was generally less (≤3.5 dB) for lower frequencies (1 to 4 kHz). AUCs were between 0.85 and 0.94 for all three TEOAE conditions at all frequencies, except for the ambient TEOAE condition at 2 kHz (0.82) and for all TEOAE conditions at 5.7 kHz with AUCs between 0.78 and 0.81. Power-weighted TEOAE AUCs were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than ambient TEOAE AUCs at 2 and 2.8 kHz, as was the TPP TEOAE AUC at 2.8 kHz when using CSM as the classifier variable.

Conclusions:

TEOAEs evaluated in an ambient condition, at TPP and in a power-weighted stimulus condition, had good test performance in identifying ears with SNHL based on SNR and CSM in the frequency range from 1 to 8 kHz and showed good test–retest reliability. Power-weighted TEOAEs showed the best test performance at 2 and 2.8 kHz. These findings are encouraging as a potential objective clinical tool to identify patients with cochlear hearing loss.

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