Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)

Dear Readers,

I mention in my website that I can provide otoacoustic emission (OAE) testing in my clinic. In fact, I am one of very few private audiology clinics in the GTA with this capability. This is an area of practice that I am very excited about because it is so unique.

An otoacoustic emission (OAE) is a very soft sound that is generated by the inner ear. It can happen on its own or in response to a sound that we present to the ear through testing. If you have a healthy inner ear, then chances are your are producing OAEs.

OAE testing consists of measuring whether you are generating OAEs and to what extent. It is a non-invasive test that takes up to a few minutes per ear. To complete the testing, a spongy tip is placed in the ear canal, a few tones of various pitches are played and the responses are recorded and sent to a computer for analysis.

OAE testing cannot tell us with 100% accuracy if hearing is normal or how much hearing loss a person has, rather, it is used as a test to determine if the organ we use to hear — the cochlea — is healthy. If you have a healthy cochlea, then chances are you have normal hearing. OAE testing is not a replacement for standard behavioural hearing tests, but it provides a reliable alternative when such testing is not feasible.

OAE testing is typical used in hospitals to screen infants at birth due to the fact they cannot participate in standard behavioural tests. If your infant did not pass their infant screening, or if they did not receive one at the time of birth, I can provide this service in clinic with minimal wait time. In a private clinic like mine, it’s also a great tool to supplement existing hearing test results. OAE testing is also an alternative for children who are unable to participate in standard behavioural testing.

Another way in which OAE testing has proven useful is when we are trying to monitor the hearing or the ears. Changes to someone’s OAEs will typically take place before changes in hearing will be detected on a standard hearing test. This is particularly important when someone is taking medications that are known to affect the hearing or with people who work in, or are chronically exposed to, noise.

Thanks for reading!

Mahsa