Low-level otoacoustic emissions may predict susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss.

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Abstract or Description

In a longitudinal study with 338 volunteers, audiometric thresholds and otoacoustic emissions were measured before and after 6 months of noise exposure on an aircraft carrier. While the average amplitudes of the otoacoustic emissions decreased significantly, the average audiometric thresholds did not change. Furthermore, there were no significant correlations between changes in audiometric thresholds and changes in otoacoustic emissions. Changes in transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions and distortion-product otoacoustic emissions were moderately correlated. Eighteen ears acquired permanent audiometric threshold shifts. Only one-third of those ears showed significant otoacoustic emission shifts that mirrored their permanent threshold shifts. A Bayesian analysis indicated that permanent threshold shift status following a deployment was predicted by baseline low-level or absent otoacoustic emissions. The best predictor was transient-evoked otoacoustic emission amplitude in the 4-kHz half-octave frequency band, with risk increasing more than sixfold from approximately 3% to 20% as the emission amplitude decreased. It is possible that the otoacoustic emissions indicated noise-induced changes in the inner ear, undetected by audiometric tests. Otoacoustic emissions may therefore be a diagnostic predictor for noise-induced-hearing-loss risk.




Published In

J. Acoust. Soc. Am, 120, 1, 280-296.