Dewey JB, Dhar S. Profiles of Stimulus-Frequency Otoacoustic Emissions from 0.5 to 20 kHz in Humans. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2017 Feb;18(1):89-110. doi:
10.1007/s10162-016-0588-2. Epub 2016 Sep 28. PubMed PMID: 27681700; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5243260.
The characteristics of human otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) have not been thoroughly examined above the standard audiometric frequency range (>8 kHz). This is despite the fact that deterioration of cochlear function often starts at the basal, high-frequency end of the cochlea before progressing apically. Here, stimulus-frequency OAEs (SFOAEs) were obtained from 0.5 to 20 kHz in 23 young, audiometrically normal female adults and three individuals with abnormal audiograms, using a low-to-moderate probe level of 36 dB forward pressure level (FPL). In audiometrically normal ears, SFOAEs were measurable at frequencies approaching the start of the steeply sloping high-frequency portion of the audiogram (∼12-15 kHz), though their amplitudes often declined substantially above ∼7 kHz, rarely exceeding 0 dB SPL above 8 kHz. This amplitude decline was typically abrupt and occurred at a frequency that was variable across subjects and not strongly related to the audiogram. In contrast, certain ears with elevated mid-frequency thresholds but regions of normal high-frequency sensitivity could possess surprisingly large SFOAEs (>10 dB SPL) above 7 kHz. When also measured, distortion-product OAEs (DPOAEs) usually remained stronger at higher stimulus frequencies and mirrored the audiogram more closely than SFOAEs. However, the high-frequency extent of SFOAE and DPOAE responses was similar when compared as a function of the response frequency, suggesting that middle ear transmission may be a common limiting factor at high frequencies. Nevertheless, cochlear factors are more likely responsible for complexities observed in high-frequency SFOAE spectra, such as abrupt amplitude changes and narrowly defined response peaks above 10 kHz, as well as the large responses in abnormal ears. These factors may include altered cochlear reflectivity due to subtle damage or the reduced spatial extent of the SFOAE generation region at the cochlear base. The use of higher probe levels is necessary to further evaluate the characteristics and potential utility of high-frequency SFOAE measurements.