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The OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) test checks part of the inner ear’s response to sound. The test is mostly done on infants and children who may not be able to respond to behavioral hearing tests because of their age.

What are otoacoustic emissions?

Otoacoustic emissions are sounds given off by one small part of the cochlea when it is stimulated by soft clicking sounds. When the sound stimulates the cochlea, the outer hair cells vibrate. The vibration produces a nearly inaudible sound that echoes back into the middle ear.

Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) are sounds of cochlear origin, which can be recorded by a microphone fitted into the ear canal. They are caused by the motion of the cochlea's sensory hair cells as they energetically respond to auditory stimulation.

A small earphone, or probe, is placed in your ear. The probe puts sounds into your ear and measures the sounds that come back. You do not need to do or say anything during the test. The person doing the test can see the results on the monitor screen. The OAE test is often part of a newborn hearing screening program.

What are otoacoustic emissions?

Soft foam or rubber tips are placed in your child’s ear. Your child will hear soft sounds through the soft foam or rubber tips. A computer will record quiet echoes from the ear.

How should I prepare for the test?

Your child is not required to sleep during this test. However, for this test, your child, and everyone in the room, must be able to sit still and be very quiet. Your child will not feel anything during this test.

How long is the test?

This test should only take a few minutes.

What do the results mean?

The results are either present or absent.

  • Present OAEs are consistent with normal to near normal hearing.
  • Absent OAEs may be a sign of a problem. It could be hearing loss, wax in the ears, fluid or infection in the middle ear or a malformed inner ear. This indicates that more testing needs to find out why the OAEs were absent, and to rule out any possible hearing loss.

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