What is an Otoacoustic Emission?
An ocoacoustic emission is a low-level sound which is emitted by the cochlea, either evoked by an auditory stimulus or spontaneously. The prime purpose of Otoacoustic emission tests is to determine cochlea’s status. It’s used to:
- Conduct screenings in newborns and infants
- Conduct screenings in people individuals with developmental disabilities
- Evaluate hearing sensitivity
- Differentiate between neural and sensory components in hearing loss
- Detect feigned hearing loss
The OAE hearing screening is performed handheld screening device while a small probe is placed in infant’s ear canal. The probe is the source of the stimulus, delivering a shallow sound into the ear. The cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, then responds by producing an Otoacoustic emission, usually called an echo, which then travels back to the ear canal through the middle ear and is analyzed by the handheld unit. The results, quite surprisingly, are delivered within minutes.
A failed test does not necessarily imply a hearing impairment. There could be fluid or debris within the ear canal or unnecessary movements by the baby along with background noises, all of which contribute to a failed test. The screening in such cases is done again. After multiple failures, the infants are referred for a complete hearing evaluation.