Otoacoustic emission testing is an objective test that evaluates the inner ear, or cochlea. This test does not require a behavioral response and can provide ear-specific information regarding the status of the outer hair cells of the cochlea, along with supportive information regarding the status of the outer and middle ear.
Otoacoustic emissions provide valuable diagnostic information to hearing health professionals and the results can help rule out all but a mild degree of hearing loss. This test is often used in Newborn Hearing Screening protocols and on small children. It can be completed on adults as well, specifically those who have concern with noise induced hearing loss or are taking ototoxic medications.
During the test, a small probe is inserted into the outer ear canal and a sound is sent through the outer and middle ear to the cochlea. The hair cells in the cochlea then send a response back through the system, similar to an echo, which is measured by the probe in the ear. The response is extremely soft and can therefore be affected by external noise and movement.
OAEs can only be completed if the patient is quiet and still. For children who are crying or too active, OAEs can usually not be obtained.