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Deafness/Hearing Impairment/Otoacoustic Emissions Test for Hair Cell Damage


OAE Test Results
OAE Test Results  
QUESTION: Hello Dr. Linton I had asked you a question a while back. I'm experiencing mild tinitus that is heard more so at night when everything is quiet. I seem to have it in both ears but my left is a bit worse. I went in for a OAE Otoacoustic Emissions Test and have attached a picture of my results. I was really hoping you can tell me what you think, I seemed to have Passed for both ears but the numbers are different in some areas and I do not know how to read it. Does it say there might be some damage to the hair cells in one ear more so than in the other? Thank you for you help Doctor. Have a nice day.

ANSWER: The test results are considered a "pass" in both ears.  We look at the SNR number and compare that to the norms of our own equipment.  Your results are pretty generous so I would assume they are considered normal for that equipment.
The lowest frequency tested in the left ear is a questionable pass...this test is looking at the function of outer hair cells it might suggest some minor damage to outer hair cells in the lower frequency.  This can also be from body noise or test environment noise.  It is usually not something we are worried about and would still consider it a pass.
If the ringing is still bothering you, it may be coming from some inner hair cell damage which should show up on a standard hearing test and/or Auditory Brainstem Testing.  I don't know if you want to go through all of that testing....just depends on how much it is bothering you.  I would discuss it with your audiology or ENT physician and see what they advise.
If all comes out normal....wearing mild gain hearing aids can do wonders for the control of tinnitus.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you doctor. Yes I have done a regular hearing test and a bone conduction test and passed both of them. The Audiologist said it is rare to see someone with such good hearing. So I am a bit confused if I am passing all these exams and I don't have damage to the inner hair cells or outter than why do I hear the high frequency tinnitus? Mostly at night by the way. Also if I might have a little damage to the lower frequency wouldn't the tinnitus sound be a low frequency sound? Mine is very very high. Thanks again doctor I might ask for the auditory brainstem testing if needed.

Sometimes people have random tinnitus for no known reason.  

An MRI would rule out any brain lesion ( although you don't have symptoms of a lesion).  The Brainstem test may identify some central hearing damage (not really treatable).

The damage may be in the ultra high frequencies....beyond where we test.  The human ear hears to 20,000 Hz and we only test to about 10,000 Hz at most.  If all else comes out normal then we know that is a possibility.  Again, there is no treatment so you have to find a way to cope with the noise.  Anti-anxiety medication sometimes helps, hearing aids help, noise maker in you room at night (fan or radio), etc.

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Dr. Kelley Linton


I'm an audiologist in private practice in Arkansas. I graduated from the University of Florida medical school. I specialize in hearing loss; hearing rehabilitation; hearing aids; noise induced hearing loss; occupational noise exposure; OSHA guidelines and regulations; hearing protection; tinnitis; newborn hearing testing; children and hearing loss and diagnosis and etiology of hearing loss.


I've been a practicing audiologist for 20 years and have owned a private practice for 14 years. I am also an audiologist in the United States Army where I teach DOD hearing conservation regulations and manage 3000 DOD employees at an army industrial facility.

Arkansas Academy of Audiology American Academy of Audiology Academy of Doctors of Audiology American Speech and Hearing Association National Hearing Conservation Association

Journal of the Academy of Audiology Southwest Times Record, Fort Smith, Arkansas Press Argus Courier, Van Buren, Arkansas

Au.D. - Doctor of Audiology, University of Florida American Academy of Audiology fellow member Audiology Board Certification American Speech and Hearing Association certification Arkansas State Audiology license-current CPT United States Army Medical Corps

Awards and Honors
American Speech and Hearing Association "ACE" award x 7 years United States Army Accommodation Award Arkansas Academy of Audiology elected board of director x 3 years Better community award, Fort Smith, AR for volunteer audiology service to free community health clinic

Past/Present Clients
Serving newborn to geriatric ages.....unable to provide specific names.

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