Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
January 13, 2021

Hearing loss can be extremely frustrating and even disabling at times. It is not something to disregard or take lightly. It is important to get your hearing checked as soon as you notice any hearing loss symptoms so that your hearing situation does not worsen or go untreated for too long. Fortunately, there are many different types of hearing tests available to find the underlying cause and diagnosis of your hearing loss. 

Otoacoustic emissions testing is a quick and easy type of hearing test that focuses on the health of the inner ear. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about reflex testing before your hearing test appointment. 

What is Otoacoustic Emissions Testing?

Individual receiving acoustic reflex testing

Otoacoustic emissions testing measures the functionality of the inner ear by testing otoacoustic emissions (OAE’s) - sounds generated from within the inner ear in response to outside sounds. The inner ear is filled with sensory hair cells that will respond to auditory stimulation by vibrating. These vibrations create subtle noises (OAE’s) that can be recorded through OAEs testing. Those with normal hearing are able to generate otoacoustic emissions. However, those with moderate to severe hearing loss or a blockage in their outer or middle ear typically do not produce any. OAEs testing will show your hearing care professional if you have a blockage preventing the emissions from reaching your inner ear or if you cannot produce the otoacoustic emissions at all. 

How Does Otoacsoutic Emissions Testing Work?     

Acoustic reflex testing in babies

Your hearing care professional will place a small probe with a tiny microphone in your ear. This device will play sounds that travel to the inner ear and then record the sounds/vibrations that are produced in response. The results from the test will be displayed on a monitor that your hearing care professional will interpret. This is a short and simple hearing evaluation; you will not be instructed to say or do anything other than sit still for the duration of the test. Thus, why OAEs testing is usually performed on young children and babies to test for hearing loss. 

What Do the Results from an Otoacoustic Emissions Test Mean?

Infographic of results of acoustic reflex testing

Otoacoustic emissions testing will not test how severe your hearing loss is, rather how well your inner ear functions. Meaning, the test will only tell you if there is any sign of a hearing problem, not necessarily what is causing the hearing problem or how severe that problem is. The test results will either be absent or present OAEs. If OAEs are recorded on the monitor, this means that your hearing is near normal or normal. Whereas, if there are no OAEs measured, then you have some sort of hearing problem. The issue could be hearing loss, infections, ear wax, fluid build up, etc.. If the OAEs are absent then you will be ordered more hearing tests to figure out exactly what is causing the hearing issue. 


Audien Hearings Aids (Budget Hearing Aids)

Otoacoustic emissions testing is a great way to figure out if your inner ear specifically has any functional issues. Your results will tell your hearing care professional whether or not you need more in-depth hearing tests ordered for you based on your inner ear’s ability to produce otoacoustic emissions. This type of hearing test is only used to see if there are any signs of a hearing issue present, not to check for hearing sensitivity or underlying causes of hearing loss. 

After getting your hearing tested, if you find that you are in need of hearing aids be sure to check out our quality hearing products here at Audien Hearing!

Thank you for reading this article,

Kathleen Williams

Senior Editor, Audien Hearing

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Drew Sutton M.D.

Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

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