From laboratory to clinic: A large scale study of distortion product otoacoustic emissions in ears with normal hearing and ears with hearing loss

Michael P. Gorga, Stephen T. Neely, Brenda Ohlrich, Brenda Hoover, Joelle Redner, Jo Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations


Objectives: 1) To describe distortion product otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) measurements in large groups of subjects with normal hearing and with hearing loss, and to use these data to provide comprehensive descriptions of DPOAE test performance. 2) To describe the effects of primary frequency and audiometric threshold on the extent to which DPOAE measurements accurately identify auditory status. 3) To develop an approach that describes the probability that any measured response is coming from either a normal or an impaired ear. 4) To develop an approach for representing DPOAE data clinically. 5) To explore the relation between magnitude of hearing loss and DPOAE measurements. Design: DPOAE measurements were made in 1267 ears of 806 subjects, using stimulus conditions that previously had been demonstrated to result in the greatest separation between normal and impaired ears (i.e., primary levels of 65/55 dB SPL for f1/f2; Stover et al., 1996). Subjects were recruited from local clinical populations and through local advertisements. All data were analyzed using clinical decision theory, including relative operating characteristic (ROC) curves and estimates of areas under these curves (Az). In addition, cumulative distributions were constructed of response properties from both normal and hearing-impaired ears. These cumulative distributions were used to select specific probabilities that measured responses were coming from either the normal or impaired distributions, and to develop an approach for describing clinical DPOAE data. Results: For no conditions were the distributions of DPOAE responses from normal and impaired ears completely separated, meaning that optimal criterion values would still result in errors in identification of auditory status. Test performance, defined by Az, was best for mid and high frequencies and poorest for lower frequencies and for the highest frequency tested (8000 Hz). Performance was best when normal hearing was defined as audiometric thresholds between 20 and 30 dB HL, with poorer performance for more stringent or lax audiometric criteria. Conclusions: Within the limits related to the effects of primary frequency and audiometric criterion, it appears that DPOAE measurements can be used to accurately identify auditory status. An approach is described, using the present data set, that allows one to assign to any measured DPOAE value (DPOAE amplitudes, DPOAE/noise) the probability that the response is coming either from the distribution of normal or impaired responses. In addition, DPOAE/noise systematically decreases as hearing loss increases over the range of hearing losses from 0 to about 40 to 60 dB HL (depending on frequency), thus potentially enabling one to differentiate hearing losses over this range. For hearing losses greater than 50 to 60 dB HL, ears do not produce measurable DPOAEs and thus, no predictive relationship exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-455
Number of pages16
JournalEar and hearing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing


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