Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) Testing

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.

How is the test done?

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.

Why is it important to have your child’s hearing tested by a pediatric audiologist?

Pediatric audiologists are specially trained clinicians who have expertise in working with children, specifically identifying hearing loss in children. A pediatric audiologist will be able to decide which tests are important to do, and complete them with accuracy and efficiency. If a hearing loss is identified, the pediatric audiologist will give you information about hearing loss, communication options and resources.

OAE Testing
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