Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)

The OAE test is used to find out how well your inner ear, or cochlea, works. It measures otoacoustic emissions, or OAEs. These are sounds generated by the inner ear or cochlea when responding to a sound or otherwise. There are hair cells in the inner ear that respond to sound by vibrating. The vibration produces a very quiet sound that echoes back into the middle ear. This sound is the OAE that is measured. This sound is also referred to as cochlear microphonics (CM). If you have normal hearing, you will produce OAEs. If your hearing loss is greater than 25–30 decibels (dB), you will not produce these very soft sounds.

This test can also show if there is a blockage in your outer or middle ear. If there is a blockage, no sounds will be able to get through to the inner ear. This means that there will be no vibration or sounds that come back, even if the sounds come back they are mostly feeble or soft due to the occlusion created by any foreign body or excess blockage of earwax.

How is OAE Done?

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. This OAE test is an integral part of universal newborn hearing screening program (UNHS).