Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)

Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) are small sounds created by the cochlea’s sound sensory cells which are called the outer hair cells (OHC). OHC are a part of the inner ear anatomy which amplify soft sounds, allow ears to be finely tuned, and are paramount for normal hearing sensitivity. The typical human cochlea has over 11,000 OHC. In a normal hearing individual, the OHC produce OAE’s which can be measured by placing a sensitive microphone into the outer ear canal. Once damaged, OHC can no longer produce the emission. Damage to OHC can occur due to congenital or acquired inner ear abnormalities, ototoxic medications, aging changes, or excessive noise exposure.

The OAE test is a quick, objective, and noninvasive test used to screen for cochlear hearing loss in children and adults. During this test, the patient will sit still while a soft insert in the ear canal measures sounds produced by the inner ear.