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Otoacoustic Emission Test

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Otoacoustic Emission Test

During the first few years of a child’s life, the ability to hear plays a critical part in child’s emotional, social and cognitive growth, and even a mild impairment can potentially alter the child’s ability to listen, comprehend and speak.

Impairment is a matter of fate; it occurs naturally and cannot be prevented. However, further deterioration and problems like complete hearing loss can be stalled if impairments are diagnosed early enough.

Therefore, it’s pivotal that you get your child screened as soon as possible.

Hearing impairment is a common birth defect, found in 1-3 infants out of every 1000. But what causes it? Let’s find out!

A partial/complete hearing impairment can occur if a child:

  • is born prematurely
  • has family history of hearing loss
  • had complications during birth
  • had frequent ear infections
  • suffered from cytomegalovirus of meningitis
  • stayed in newborn intensive care unit for a long period

Otoacoustic Emission Test is a preventive treatment medically recommended for newborn babies who are younger than 3 months. It’s a major part of newborn hearing screening programs and has significantly advanced the procedure for screening infants.

Why is Otoacoustic Emission Test for infants recommended?

  • It does not need a behavioural response from the child
  • Detects sensorineural hearing loss
  • It’s virtually painless and quick

What is an Otoacoustic Emission?

An ocoacoustic emission is a low-level sound which is emitted by the cochlea, either evoked by an auditory stimulus or spontaneously. The prime purpose of Otoacoustic emission tests is to determine cochlea’s status. It’s used to:

  • Conduct screenings in newborns and infants
  • Conduct screenings in people individuals with developmental disabilities
  • Evaluate hearing sensitivity
  • Differentiate between neural and sensory components in hearing loss
  • Detect feigned hearing loss

OAE Procedure

The OAE hearing screening is performed handheld screening device while a small probe is placed in infant’s ear canal. The probe is the source of the stimulus, delivering a shallow sound into the ear. The cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, then responds by producing an Otoacoustic emission, usually called an echo, which then travels back to the ear canal through the middle ear and is analyzed by the handheld unit. The results, quite surprisingly, are delivered within minutes.

A failed test does not necessarily imply a hearing impairment. There could be fluid or debris within the ear canal or unnecessary movements by the baby along with background noises, all of which contribute to a failed test. The screening in such cases is done again. After multiple failures, the infants are referred for a complete hearing evaluation.

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